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October 11, 2003

National Endowment for Democracy: Paying to Make Enemies of America


by Rep. Ron Paul

The misnamed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is nothing more than a costly program that takes US taxpayer funds to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the NED does in foreign countries, through its recipient organizations the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), would be rightly illegal in the United States. The NED injects "soft money" into the domestic elections of foreign countries in favor of one party or the other. Imagine what a couple of hundred thousand dollars will do to assist a politician or political party in a relatively poor country abroad. It is particularly Orwellian to call US manipulation of foreign elections "promoting democracy." How would Americans feel if the Chinese arrived with millions of dollars to support certain candidates deemed friendly to China? Would this be viewed as a democratic development?

In an excellent study of the folly of the National Endowment for Democracy, Barbara Conry notes that:

"NED, which also has a history of corruption and financial mismanagement, is superfluous at best and often destructive. Through the endowment, the American taxpayer has paid for special-interest groups to harass the duly elected governments of friendly countries, interfere in foreign elections, and foster the corruption of democratic movements...

"...the controversy surrounding NED questions the wisdom of giving a quasi-private organization the fiat to pursue what is effectively an independent foreign policy under the guise of 'promoting democracy.' Proponents of NED maintain that a private organization is necessary to overcome the restraints that limit the activities of a government agency, yet they insist that the American taxpayer provide full funding for this initiative. NED's detractors point to the inherent contradiction of a publicly funded organization that is charged with executing foreign policy (a power expressly given to the federal government in the Constitution) yet exempt from nearly all political and administrative controls...

"...In the final analysis, the endowment embodies the most negative aspects of both private aid and official foreign aid – the pitfalls of decentralized 'loose cannon' foreign policy efforts combined with the impression that the United States is trying to 'run the show' around the world."

The National Endowment for Democracy is dependent on the US taxpayer for funding, but because NED is not a government agency, it is not subject to Congressional oversight. It is indeed a heavily subsidized foreign policy loose cannon.

Since its founding in 1983, the National Endowment for Democracy has been headed by Carl Gershman, a member of the neo-Trotskyite Social Democrats/USA.

Perhaps that is one reason much of what NED has done in the former Communist Bloc has ended up benefiting former communists in those countries. As British Helsinki Human Rights Group Director Christine Stone has written:

Both (IRI and NDI) are largely funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) ... which, in turn, receive money from the American taxpayer. Both have favoured the return to power of former high-ranking Communists which has also meant co-opting foot-soldiers from the new left who have extremely liberal ideas...

Skender Gjinushi, speaker of the Albanian parliament, thanks the IRI for its assistance in drafting the Albanian constitution in 1998. What the IRI does not say is that Gjinushi was a member of the brutal Stalinist Politburo of Enver Hoxha's Communist Party until 1990 and one of the main organizers of the unrest that led to the fall of the Democratic Party government in 1997 and the death of over 2000 people.

President Stoyanov of Bulgaria drools: "Without IRI's support we could not have come so far so fast." Indeed. Indeed. So far did they come that Ivan Kostov (who supplies another encomium to IRI) was catapulted from his job teaching Marxism-Leninism at Sofia University to being prime minister of Bulgaria and a leader of "reform."

In Slovakia, NED funded several initiatives aimed at defeating the freely-elected government of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who, interestingly, had been persecuted by the previous Communist regime. After the election, an IRI newsletter boasted that "IRI polls changed the nature of the campaign," adding that IRI efforts secured "a victory for reformers in Slovakia." What the IRI does not say is that many of these "reformers" had been leading members of the former Communist regime of then-Czechoslovakia. Is this democracy?

More recently, IRI president George A. Folsom last year praised a coup against Venezuela's democratically-elected president, saying, "Last night, led by every sector of civil society, the Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country." It was later revealed that the National Endowment for Democracy provided funds to those organizations that initiated the violent revolt in the streets against Venezuela's legal leaders. More than a dozen civilians were killed and hundreds were injured in this attempted coup. Is this promoting democracy?

The National Endowment for Democracy, by meddling in the elections and internal politics of foreign countries, does more harm to the United States than good. It creates resentment and ill-will toward the United States among millions abroad. It is beyond time to de-fund this Cold War relic and return to the foreign policy of our founders, based on open relations and trade with all countries and free from meddling and manipulation in the internal affairs of others.


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    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

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