Clark's NED Ties Under Fire

Smirking Chimp Thread, Post #15 > Democratic Underground Thread

The raging debate is over the NED's role in the Venezuelan crisis early in the Bush Administration. Clark is still listed on the board of directors and he was elected to the board in January 2001, according to this NED press release. Who did the electing? I don't know yet.

The NED does its own grants, but it also favors four different organizations as grantees.

NED also has a special relationship with four U.S. grantees that represent the building blocks of a democratic society. Commonly referred to as the "core grantees," these organizations are: The American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS – commonly called the Solidarity Center), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). NED gives grants to these groups, for programs that promote pluralism and free and fair elections (IRI and NDI), free markets and economic reforms (CIPE), and independent trade unions (ACILS). Each of these four grantees receives an equal portion of NED’s grant budget – and each program is carefully developed with NED program staff and approved by NED’s board of directors, just like any other grantee.

Who are NED's grantees?
The IRI and the NDI are essentially arms of the the Republican Party and Democratic Party respectively. ACILS has the same relationship with the AFL-CIO. These three organizations were part of the quadrupling of NED grantVenezuelanualan organizations in 2001, the year of the coup.
While the endowment's expressed goal is to promote democracy around the world, the State Department's human rights bureau is examining whether one or more recipients of the money may have actively plotted against Mr. Chavez. The bureau has put a $1 million grant to the endowment on hold pending that review, an official said.

"We wanted to make certain that U.S. government resources were not going to underwrite the unconstitutional overthrow of the government of Venezuela," said the official, who occupmid-leveldlevel job in the department and asked not to be identified. The deputy spokesman for the State Department, Philip Reeker, said he was unaware of the proposed grant.

Of particular concern is $154,377 given by the endowment to the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the international arm of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to assist the main Venezuelan labor union in advancing labor rights.

The Venezuelan union, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, led the work stoppages that galvanized the opposition to Mr. Chavez. The union's leader, Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who briefly took over from Mr. Chavez, in challenging the government.

The endowment also provided significant resources to the foreign policy wings of the Republican and Democratic parties for work in Venezuela, which sponsored trips to Washington by Chavez's critics.

The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs was given a $210,500 grant to promote the accountability of local government. The International Republican Institute, which has an office in Venezuela, received a grant of $339,998 for political party building. On April 12, the day of the takeover, the group hailed Mr. Chavez's ouster. "The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country," the institute's president, George A. Folsom, said in a stVenezuelansenezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chavez."

U.S. Bankrolling Is Under Scrutiny for Ties to Chavez Ouster
What a nice sticky wicket of a situation this is. But I'm thinking that Clark's position on the NED board isn't the automatic black eye that some people at DU are claiming it to be. The board is directly involved in the grant process, but these sub-granters are then responsible for distributing it to the final recipients. Since the labor unions and the major political parties are three of the four main grantees (the fourth grantee is the foreign policy arm of the US Chamber of Commerce), I'd imagine the board to be a check and balance on these four main groups, with political appointees from each party in evidence on the board. The closest analogy I'd risk is the post-WW2 administration of Germany under the auspices of France, Britain, the United States and Soviet Russia, which was no model of harmonious relationship.

What we have here is a pile of money coming out of the government. Four groups with differing objectives (some having closer connections with each other than others) get the lion's share of the money and the board determines how that money is divided up.

The AFL-CIO appears to have its behind covered. Although its money went to the CTV, a labor union with close ties to the parties Chavez displaced and a major part of the failed coup, the money appears to have been spent the way it was intended to be spent.
For some observers, the most troubling grant was that to the IRI [the GOP arm], because of its apparently false claims about the institution's work and its director's strong support for Chavez' ouster. The grant amount for the IRI, which has an office in Caracas, more than sextupled from $50,000 in 2000 to $339,998 in 2001.

In an April 12 facsimile sent to news media, IRI President George A. Folsom rejoiced over Chavez' removal from power. "The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country," he wrote. "Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chavez."

Fanning the concerns about how the IRI may have utilized its NED funds are doubts regarding the accuracy of its reporting on activities in Venezuela. According to the organization's website, it has several times collaborated with a Venezuelan partner organization called the Youth Participation Foundation (FPJ). Indeed, working with the FPJ was the primary purpose of the IRI's $50,000 year 2000 grant. But dozens of Venezuelan politicians, activists, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives interviewed for this story--including several who have worked with the IRI--had never heard of the FPJ.

According to the IRI's Caracas office, the FPJ ceased to exist "several years ago." According to the IRI website, prior to the 1998 elections the FPJ arranged a pair of youth forums featuring major presidential candidates. But neither the candidates nor the television station supposedly involved had any record or memory of such events.

The US NED in Venezuela, emphasis added
So the GOP was responsible for almost half of NED's funding increase to Venezuelan organizations in 2001.

Since Clark had last served in the Clinton administration, and stepped into the board on January 2001 after voting for Gore in November 2000, my hunch is that he was on the Democratic side of the agenda even then. We'd have to know exactly what role he played in the funding of the Venezuelan grants, what he and other board members were told the money was for, and whether this resembled the actual way the money was used.

And so it's far too early to imagine him with his hands around Hugo Chavez's neck.

UPDATE: major typos corrected.