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Council on Foreign Relations

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Council on Foreign Relations

Acronym/Code: COFR

Updated: 9/89

Categories:Political

Background: The Council on Foreign Relations (COFR) was established in 1921. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization with a current membership of 2,450. Membership is by invitation only through nomination by the membership committee and approval by the board of directors. (1) The Council takes no institutional position on foreign policy issues and no one is authorized to speak on behalf of the Council. (1) The Council has 38 independent branches around the U.S., and provides the majority of speakers for their meetings. (1)

The Council’s library is open to "qualified" members of the public; its quarterly journal, Foreign Affairs is available to the public. (1)

There was a struggle for power in the Council over who was to succeed David Rockefeller who retired in 1985. It appears that struggle was between the forces of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. (5,6) Peter G. Peterson who emerged as chairman is a close associate of Henry Kissinger. (5,6) Peter Tarnoff, the Vance candidate for the chair, became the Council’s president. (6) It was suggested by one Council source that a Peterson victory could turn the COFR into "a shadow Bush cabinet."(5)

The Council on Foreign Relations attempts to influence official U.S. policy, and a number of its members have a history of working closely with the CIA. (4)

Funding: The Council on Foreign Relations receives no funding from the U.S. or any other government. (1)

A portion of its funding comes from dues which range from a low of $60 for non-resident, non-business members under 30 years of age to $1,200 for resident business members over 40 years of age. (1) In 1987, the Council received individual contributions of over $500,000 from 1,237 individuals. (1) The bulk of the Council’s funding comes from corporate contributions. In 1987, the Council received over $4,316,000 in new endowments, grants and gifts, and an additional $640,000 in installment payments on multi-year grants. (1) Additionally, it has a pledge campaign which brought in more than $1. 5 million. (1)

Over the years major donors have included the Ford Fdn which gave $300,000 in 1985 and 1986, the Wm and Flora Hewlett Fdn which donated $300,000 in 1986, the Dillon Fund with a donation of $250,000 in 1986, and the Carnegie Fdn with a grant of $150,000 in 1986. Other donors in those years included ARCO Fdn, General Electric Fdn, Ford Motor Company Fdn, Bank America Fdn, American Can Co Fdn, Cummins Engine Fdn, Texaco Fdn, Phillips Petroleum Fdn, Morgan Guarantee Trust Fdn, Corning Glass Works Fdn, AT&T, the Florence and John Schumann Fdn, the General Motors Fdn, the Rockefeller Fdn, the Alfred P. Sloan Fdn, and Proctor & Gamble. (2,3)

Contributions from corporations and other organizations in 1987 included most of those mentioned above and also included The Asia Fdn, Association of Radio and Television News Analysts, Bristol-Myers Co, The German Marshall Fund, IBM World Trade Corp, Andrew Mellon Fdn, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Smith Richardson Fdn, the Starr Fdn, and the Xerox Fdn. (1)

In 1987, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. and Helen W. Buckner gave a $2 millon grant to COFR. Xerox Corp gave $750,000 in honor of its retiring chairman, C. Peter McColough, who was treasurer of COFR for nine years. Rita Hauser made a $300,000 grant for a studies program on regional security issues. (1)

The Council’s investment portfolio had a value of $47. 3 million on June 30, 1988. (1)

Activities: The activities of the Council on Foreign Relations consist primarily of seminars, conferences, and study sessions. (1) In 1987, COFR Meetings Program held 153 meetings in the Harold Pratt House, 6 regionally in the U.S. and 2 in Europe. (1) Speakers at the meetings included 15 heads of state and 15 foreign ministers. (1)

In the same year, COFR held 67 meetings and 13 study sessions in Washington. Ambassadors Robert Strauss and Philip Habib helped the Council establish a Middle East Forum that offered 12 programs and included a meeting with Secretary of State George Shultz. (1) Similarly, CIA director William Webster was the keynote speaker at COFR’s annual meeting for members and their families. (1)

In other words, the COFR has meetings, and most of those meetings involve people directly involved with or close to international "hot spots" or the seats of power. COFR is a policy-developing organization and wants very much to have a hand in shaping U.S. foreign policy. (1)

The influence of the COFR is international. In 1988, 84 non-Americans led discussion groups. Among them were: Moshe Arad, ambassador of Israel to the U.S. ; Aldofo Calero, head of the contra’s Nicaraguan Democratic Force; Kwang Soo Shoi, foreign minister of the Republic of Korea; Roberto Eisenmann, editor of La Prensa in Panama; Yotaro Kobyashi, chairman of Fuji Xerox in Japan; Carlos Tunnerman, Ambassador of Nicaragua to the U.S. ; and Han Xu, ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the U.S. (1)

The Council co-produces a television series with City University of New York entitled "Worldview." Each show is an hour-long examination of a foreign policy issue. The first show of 1988 was an examination of the imperatives for the next president with Henry Kissinger. (1)

William Webster was the keynote speaker at COFR’s annual meeting for members and their families. (1)

Government Connections: Peter G. Peterson was Secretary of Commerce and international-economics troubleshooter in the Nixon administration. (5) He is a close friend of Henry Kissinger. Petersen is known as a "hard-as-nails" businessman. (5)

Former president of the Council, Winston Lord, was ambassador to China in the Reagan administration. (6)

William Hyland, editor of Foreign Affairs, worked under Kissinger in the Nixon administration. Before joining the administration, Hyland was the CIA’s top Kremlinologist. (5)

Peter Tarnoff was special assistant to Cyrus Vance in the State Department. (6)

Jeane Kirkpatrick and William Webster were in the Reagan administration. Webster was head of CIA and Kirkpatrick the ambassador to the United Nations. (1)

Cyrus Vance was Secretary of State in the Carter administration from 1977 to 1980. (15)

Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft (ret. ) was a National Security Adviser in the Ford administration from 1975 through 1977, and serves in the same capacity in the Bush administration. (15,16) From 1977 to 1980 Scowcroft served on the President’s Advisory Commissiion on Arms Control. (15)

Richard B. Cheney was a Senator from Wyoming and is currently the Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration.

Private Connections: Peter G. Peterson was the chairman of Lehman Brothers investment firm until he was ousted in a coup in 1983. (5)

Richard Cheney is co-chairman of the advisory board of the Center for strategic and International Studies. (7) Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft (ret. ) is an adjunct fellow at CSIS. (7)

Cyrus Vance is on the board of directors of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). (8) NDI was created by the Democratic Party to receive grants for "democracy building" projects from the National Endowment for Democracy. (9)

Jeane Kirkpatrick was a prominent member of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and the Committee on the Present Danger, strongly anticommunist groups that formed in the 1970s to combat the policy of detente. (10) She is on the board of the Committee for the Free World, a group of neoconservative intellectuals who via the media undertake the defense of the noncommunist world. (11) She was also connected with the Friends of the Democratic Center in Central America (PRODEMCA), a member of the nongovernmental contra supply network. (12) Kirkpatrick is a resident scholar at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, and is or was on the "faculty" of the CSIS. (11,13) Kirkpatrick made the keynote address and was honored with a reception at the Council for National Policy (CNP) meeting in October 1982. The CNP is an exclusive, secretive, rightwing group that envisions itself as the policymaking body of the Right. (14)

Misc:Comments: The Council on Foreign Relations is a prestigious group and membership is considered to be a plum on one’s resume. It is the oldest of the think tank establishments and over the years has been considered a moderate group. While the COFR has a large and distinguished membership, it is doubtful whether the institution itself has a significant influence on policy. There is little question, however, that many of its members have influential positions in government and do influence policy.

U.S. Address: 58 East 68th Street, New York, NY 10021.

Principals: Officers for the 1987-1988 year were: Peter G. Peterson, chair; Peter Tarnoff, pres; Warren Christopher, vice chair; John Temple Swing, exec vice pres; Lewis T. Preston, tres; Alton Frye, vice pres, Washington; William H. Gleysteen, Jr, vice pres, studies; John A. Millington, vice pres, planning and development; Margaret Osmer-McQuade, vice pres, meetings. (1)

Directors for the 1987-1988 year were: Graham T. Allison, Jr. , Harold Brown, James E. Burke, Richard B. Cheney, Warren Christopher, Robert F. Erburu, Richard L. Gelb, Alan Greenspan, Karen Elliot House, Stanley Hoffmann, B. R. Inman, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Juanita Kreps, Charles M. Mathias, Jr. , Donald F. McHenry, Ruben F. Mettler, Peter G. Peterson, Lewis T. Preston, William D. Rogers, Robert A. Scalapino, Brent Scowcroft, Stephen Stamas, Peter Tarnoff, Glenn E. Watts, Clifton R. Wharton, Jr. (1)

Honorary Officers and Directors Emeritii were: Arthur Dean (deceased), Douglas Dillon, George S. Franklin, Caryl P. Haskins, Joseph E. Johnson, Grayson Kirk, John J. McCloy, James A. Perkins, Philip D. Reed, David Rockefeller, Charles M. Spofford, Cyrus R. Vance. (1)

William G. Hyland is the editor of Foreign Affairs. (1)

The COFR numbers among its members many government officials from past administrations as well as the Bush administration. (1) Its membership has been noted to include individuals from the corporate world who hold overlapping corporate directorships, and therefore wield a wide base of influence in the world of commerce. The current membership also includes strong representation from the neoconservative labor community. (1)

Among the COFR members who are government officials or congresspeople from past and present administrations are: Les Aspin, James E. Baker, George W. Ball, Zbigniew Brzezinski, McGeorge Bundy, Frank C. Carlucci, Hodding Carter III, Jimmy Carter, Richard B. Cheney, William E. Colby, Sally SheltonColby, Christopher J. Dodd, Lawrence Eagleburger, Thomas Ehrlich, Dante B. Fascell, Thomas S. Foley, Gerald R. Ford, Alexander M. Haig Jr. , Richard Helms, Fred C. Ikle, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Henry A. Kissinger, Winston Lord, Edward N. Luttwak, Daniel P. Moynihan, Edmund S. Muskie, Paul H. Nitze, Claiborne Pell, Richard N. Perle, Richard E. Pipes, Elliot L. Richardson, John Richardson, Eugene V. Rostow, Brent Scowcroft, William E. Simon, Russell E. Train, Cyrus R. Vance, Paul A. Volcker, William Webster, Caspar W. Weinberger, and Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr. (1)

Other notable members include: Anne Armstrong, chair of the board of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); conservative columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. ; neoconservative labor leaders Sol "Chick" Chaikin, Jay Lovestone, Jay Mazur, and Leo Cherne; San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros; former CIA deputy director and current CSIS senior adviser–Ray S. Cline; editor-in-chief of the Washington Times Arnaud de Borchgrave; exec dir of the Committee for the Free World Midge Decter; secretary of the AFL-CIO William C. Doherty, Jr. ; former vice pres candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro; political scientist and former National Security Council member Samuel P. Huntington; former arms control negotiator Max M. Kampleman; CSIS dir of African studies Helen Kitchen; and prominent conservative political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset. (1)

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