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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Citizens for America

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Citizens for America

Acronym/Code: CFA

Updated: 2/90


Background: Citizens for America (CFA) was founded in 1983 at a White House meeting between Lewis Lehrman and Jack Hume to promote the Reagan agenda. (4,16) Tracee Howell of CFA said that CFA’s purpose was to sell to the public the president’s [Reagan] "pet projects" such as the Strategic Defense Initiative and the contra war in Nicaragua. (16) CFA is one of the groups forming the "New Right" that have played a leading role "in creating and implementing the administration’s contra policy, as well as providing public relations services, and acting as a cover for financing military and ‘humanitarian’ efforts for the rebels."(16)

CFA states that it is a national civic league for individuals who believe in federal policies of economic growth and a strong national defense. (1) CFA has 265 local chapters. (1)

Funding: Lehrman and Hume were able to attract major rightwing funders such as Joseph Coors and Ivan Boesky. Many backers of CFA come from the Fortune 500, including the heads of such corporations as Atlantic-Richfield, Shell Oil, Chase Manhattan, Dr. Pepper, W. R. Grace, Amway, and Northrup. (16) Ultra rightwing Texas billionaire Nelson Bunker Hunt, Texas financier T. Boone Pickens, and Reagan "kitchen cabinet" members Holmes Tuttle and Earle Jorgensen have also contributed to CFA. (19) The J. E. and L. E. Mabee Fdn donated $20,000 in 1985, and in 1986 the Starr Fdn donated $50,000. (9,10) CFA’s 1986 budget was $1. 8 million. (16)

Activities: Local chapters of CFA act as lobbies in the home offices of congressional representatives. (1) CFA coordinates these activities with legislative action and media campaigns which include ads, op-eds, and letter-writing drives. (18)

In 1983 CFA developed a close working relationship with the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (S/LPD) of the State Department. The S/LPD was established in 1983 to produce domestic propaganda to influence the public and the Congress to support the Reagan administration’s Central American policy. (18) Its relationship with CFA, which included a number of contracts for op-eds, articles and editorials–the information for which was provided by the S/LPD–later became the subject of an inquiry by the Committee on Government Operations of the House of Representatives. The review, conducted by the Comptroller General’s office, concluded that S/LPD’s "activities involving the preparation and dissemination of certain types of information violated a restriction on the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by the Congress." However, the review ruled that on the basis of available evidence the antilobbying statute had not been violated. (18)

CFA has been listed among the DC-based political lobbies that provided "private" aid to the contras. (11)

CFA produced slick anticommunist publications targeting the Sandinista government which were distributed to interested audiences along with materials of the State Department, the Defense Department, Heritage Foundation, and the Senate Republican Policy Committee. The group also sponsored a major public relations campaign for the Nicaraguan contras, including a 1985 national tour of contra leaders to 200 congressional districts and a barrage of pro-contra aid radio and newspaper ads in 1986. (16,23) CFA worked closely with Oliver North in North’s contra supply efforts."Abramoff and CFA were assigned responsibility for organizing briefings by contra speakers, telephone-trees ‘to targeted congressional offices encouraging them to vote for aid to the freedom fighters in Nicaragua’." (Interior quotes are from a declassified "NSC Intelligence Document," Exhibit OLN-217). (24)

CFA was the principal U.S. sponsor for a 1985 meeting of anticommunist resistance groups ("freedom fighters") held in Angola. (12) This conference was important to the Reagan White House and generated at least three memoranda–one from speechwriter Dana Rohrabacher to White House communications director Patrick Buchanan, one from Buchanan to National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and one from National Security Council staffer Walter Raymond to McFarlane. The memos discussed whether the president should send a personal message to the Angola meeting via Lehrman and whether Rohrabacher should attend the meeting. (12,13,14) The conference was considered instrumental in pressuring the Reagan administration to authorize a $15 million aid package for UNITA in 1986. (11) The conference also exerted pressure on the U.S. Congress and public to support the Nicaraguan contras and the guerrillas in Afghanistan. (15)

Lewis Lehrman of CFA and Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus joined in a 1986 effort to give Angolan UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi official "freedom fighter" status with the U.S. government. Savimbi and UNITA then became eligible to receive U.S. aid. (11,15)

CFA along with the Conservative Network, the American Conservative Union, the Conservative Caucus, Eagle Forum, and the Heritage Foundation gave a plaque of honor to Attorney General Edwin Meese in late 1987. (3)

CFA joined forces with the American Conservative Union in 1987 to form The Committee to Save the Reagan Platform. The group geared up to make a strong stand on conservative issues at the 1988 Republican convention. (7)

Government Connections: The founders of CFA were very close to the Reagan White House. On April 22, 1987, the president invited them to a private lunch in the State Dining Room to express gratitude for their support. (4)

Lewis Lehrman worked for Radio Free Europe. (27)

Donald Devine served as President Reagan’s Director of the Office of Personnel Management. (6) Devine was a member of Senator Robert Dole’s presidental campaign team. (7)

In 1984 CFA wrote the Secretary of State requesting support for its lobbying efforts for the Reagan administration’s policies. Ambassador Otto Reich head of the S/LPD prepared a draft response for the Secretary of State to sign. In his memo to the Secretary, Reich wrote that the S/LPD has provided CFA with "a great deal of information," and he would appreciate it if the Secretary would show CFA his "encouragement and appreciation." Reich’s draft letter was not used. (18)

The Washington Post reported that Oliver North has been very close to Jack Abramoff and the CFA. North helped CFA select the contra leaders for the 1985 speaking tour. (25)

Louis "Woody" Jenkins was a Louisiana State Representative. (33)

President Reagan also hosted the top contributors to the CFA at the White House, having a picture made with each guest. (8)

Private Connections: Lewis Lehrman is heir to the Rite Aid drug store chain. (19) Lehrman spent more than $7 million of his personal fortune in an unsuccessful bid for the governorship of New York in 1982. (36) He is the founder of the Lehrman Institute, a conservative think tank which sponsors by-invitation-only seminars on economics and foreign policy. (24) Lehrman is or was a member of the Conservative Network, a conservative lobby group founded in 1985 to support the programs and policies of the Reagan administration. (22) He was or is on the board of the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. (27)

Robert H. Krieble was or is a director of the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the conservative U.S. Industrial Council Education Foundation. (5) Krieble has also been a supporter of a number of rightwing groups including: Accuracy in Media, the National Conservative Political Action Committee, Hoover Institution, and Heritage Foundation. (5) He is on the board of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the Chamber of Commerce channel for funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. (28) Krieble and Associates gave a donation of $1,320 to the National Endowment for Democracy in 1989. (29) Krieble is or was vice chairman of the board of the conservative Heritage Foundation. (34)

Donald Devine headed The Committee to Save the Reagan Platform, a joint project of CFA and the American Conservative Union. (6,7) The Committee to Save the Reagan Platform was formed by a coalition of rightwing activists to try to ensure that the major conservative elements of Reagan’s policy stands would be carried into the future regardless of who won the 1988 presidential election. (7) Devine is or was the president of the Reagan Administration Appointees Association, a Reagan administration alumnae group. (7)

Member organizations of The Committee to Save the Reagan Platform included such rightwing stalwarts as the Fund for a Conservative Majority, the Council for Inter-American Security, the pro-SDI High Frontier, and the evangelical Moral Majority and Christian Voice. (7)

Louis "Woody" Jenkins is the founder and co-chair of Friends of the Americas, an organization heavily involved in Central America which provided humanitarian aid to the Nicaraguan contras and their families. (30,35) Jenkins was the first director of the elitist rightwing strategy group, the Council for National Policy (CNP). Jenkins was director of the CNP in 1982-1983 and in 1987. (31,32)

Jack Wheeler and his Freedom Research Foundation joined CFA in its sponsorship of the 1985 meeting of anticommunist insurgent groups in Angola. (12) The Freedom Research Foundation, founded by Wheeler with assistance from the rightwing Conservative Caucus, is a networking and public relations agency for third world anticommunist groups. (21) Wheeler has been a consultant for the Rand Corporation and writes for the Unification Church-owned Washington Times. (20,21)

Jack Abramoff, former executive director of CFA, is the founder and former chairman of the International Freedom Foundation, an aggressive rightwing think tank. (24) Abramoff served as the chairman of the College Republican National Committee from 1981 to 1985 and in 1982 became the executive director of the political action committee of the Conservative Caucus–a position he still held as of early 1990. Abramoff also served as chairman of the United Students of America, a rightist student group based at the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation. (24)

CFA was an active participant in the 1986 Conservative Political Action Committee, a group whose membership was a who’s who of the far right. (26)

Misc: A 1987 CFA newsletter reported that President Reagan pulled out a CFA bumper sticker in support of "Star Wars" at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The sticker said "SDI Could Ruin a Nuclear Bomb’s Whole Day."(4)

Comments:U.S. Address: 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Suite 240, Washington DC 20002.

Principals: Donald Devine, chairman in 1990. (1) Lewis E. Lehrman, co-founder and president. (2) Dr. Robert H. Krieble, Louisiana State Representative Louis "Woody" Jenkins, and Jack Hume were also co-founders of Citizens for America. (16,25) Marc L. Holtzman was executive director until 1984 when he was replaced by Jack Abramoff. (2,25) Andres Bougolubov is either the current or former executive director. (2)

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