The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, November 18, 2005

Conrad Black: conservative activist, criminal

When I first heard the story about newspaper magnate Conrad Black being investigated for stealing tens of millions of dollars from his own business, the name sorta rang a bell, but I didn't think much of it. Then I heard a newscaster refer to him as Lord Conrad Black, and it all came back to me.

Black has been a big funder of the modern conservative movement, and given vast amounts of cash to some of the most prominent and vocal supporters of the Bush administration.

From the book Banana Republicans:

Prior to his fall from grace, Black had built a reputation for himself as a deep thinker in his own right, publishing a thick biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, its dust jacket decorated with laudatory blurbs including Henry Kissinger, columnist George F. Will, and National Review founder William F. Buckley, Jr. "What the blurbs did not mention was that each man was praising the work of a sometime boss," the Times reported. "During the 1990's, Lord Black had appointed all three to an informal international board of advisers of Hollinger International, the newspaper company he controlled. For showing up once a year with Lord Black to debate the world's problems, each was typically paid about $25,000 annually." In addition to Buckley, Kissinger and Will, Black's advisory board included luminaries such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Richard Perle, the former assistant secretary of defense to Ronald Reagan.

Most of these illuminati had received payments of more than $100,000 over the years but hadn't felt compelled to disclose the payments when they publicly praised or disseminated Black's political views. During thebuildup to the war with Iraq, for example, George Will had written a cloumn praising a hawkish speech that Black gave in London. Ater the New York Times called to ask if he should have disclosed his financial relationship with Black at tthe time, Will snapped, "My business is my business. Got it?"

Buckley was a bit more polite but equally evasive. When Black's financial scandal began making the news in November 2003, Buckley had written a defense of the embattled mogul. . ."

Buckley also claimed that Black had "never donated a nickel" to Buckley or any of his "enterprises." As the authors point out, that's a true statement-- the hundreds of thousands Black transferred to Buckley were payment for services rendered. Not a donation.

One reporter spoke of Black's huge ego and sense of entitlement-- saying that the expression "He was born on third base and thought he'd hit a triple" described him perfectly.