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The Money Behind Moon's Washington Times

Where did all the money come from to keep the money-losing Moonie paper afloat all these years?
 
 
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Editor’s note:This is part two of a series on the Washington Times. You can read Part One Here.

Of all the many questions swirling around the fate of Sun Myung Moon’s daily newspaper the Washington Times, none is as puzzling as this: where did all the money come from to keep the paper afloat all these years?

Like many American newspapers, Washington’s “other” daily is now hemorrhaging money. Unlike most, however, red ink is nothing new for the Times, which has been a major money loser ever since its inception in 1982. But money has never been a problem for the man behind the Times – convicted felon and self-styled “Messiah” Sun Myung Moon. As I reported in my previous post, the Korean cult leader spent well over a billion dollars in just the decade of 1982-92 — at a time when most of his operations in America were losing substantial sums:

• more than $800 million on the Washington Times;
• hundreds of millions on national periodicals;
• tens of millions on electronic media;
• at least $40 million on New York newspapers;
• more than $10 million on a New York publishing house;
• millions on World Media Association junkets and conferences;
• millions more on New Right organizations, including the American Freedom Coalition;
• well over $100 million on real estate, including the New Yorker Hotel in midtown Manhattan;
• at least $40 million on commercial fishing operations;
• and at least $75 million on related projects…

Along the way, the Washington Times became the centerpiece of a successful effort by Moon to influence American public opinion and promote a conservative political agenda in the United States. His movement, once merely labeled a cult, is now most accurately described as a conglomerate. From his extensive media operations in the nation’s capital… To substantial real estate holdings throughout the United States… And from large commercial fishing operations… To advanced high-tech and computer industries, a Fifth Avenue publishing house, and literally dozens of other businesses, foundations, associations, institutes, and political and cultural groups… Moon and his money became a force to be reckoned with – in large part because, as award-winning investigative reporter Robert Parry has written, his daily mouthpiece the Times “targeted American politicians of the center and left with journalistic attacks – sometimes questioning their sanity, as happened with Democratic presidential nominees Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. Those themes then resonate through the broader right-wing echo chamber and into the mainstream media.”

Exactly how much money the Washington Times itself loses annually is still a closely held secret – as is the specific source of the funds. But it’s safe to assume that Moon’s American money comes from overseas — as he himself told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June, 1984:

Moon: “Several hundred million dollars have been poured into America, because this nation will decide the destiny of the world, these contributions are primarily coming from overseas.”

But where precisely does the money come from? As I first reported in my PBS Frontline documentary The Resurrection of Reverend Moon, most of Moon’s money comes from Japan.

One early Moon patron was a man named Ryoichi Sasakawa, once one of the richest men and the chief political brokers in Japan. Sasakawa’s money came from his monopoly on the motorboat racing industry. (Legalized gambling on the sport is a multi-billion dollar a year industry in Japan.) According to author Pat Choate, whose book Agents of Influence examined Japan’s effort to shape America’s policy and politics, “When Reverend Moon expanded his operations inside Japan, he asked Sasakawa to be one of the principal advisers to his Church inside Japan. Many of their operations — the Sasakawa operations, the Moon operations — seem to parallel each other. They operate in many of the same ways — giving away money, a great deal of attention to media and media organizations, the establishment of think tanks and other policy organizations that operate across national borders, and the maintenance of a very right wing conservative focus.”

In addition, Moon’s Japanese fund-raising machinery is another central source of his financial might in the United States.

Substantial sums appear to be the result of so-called ‘spiritual sales” or swindles. The church concentrates on attracting older people, particularly women, and then pressures them to turn over their assets or take large loans against them, turning the money over to the church. Many are specifically told to donate money so it may be used for the Washington Times.

With all that money coming into the US from abroad – much of it illegally — who controls what is done with it? That same question was asked — and answered – decades ago by the U.S. Congress in the so-called Fraser Report, the result of Minnesota Democratic Congressman Donald Fraser’s “Koreagate” investigation, in part a probe into Moon’s relationship to the Korean CIA and the buying of political influence on Capitol Hill:

“Moon provides considerably more than spiritual guidance to his worldwide organization. The statements and testimony of former members and officials in Moon’s Organization, evidence gleaned from internal UC publications, memos, other documents, and financial records all show that Moon exercises substantial control over temporal matters. These include the transfer of funds from one organization to another, personnel changes and allocations, the structure and operation of fundraising teams, the timing and nature of political demonstrations, and the marketing of goods produced by the organization’s businesses. As in any organization so large and complex, there are advisers, lieutenants, and managers with varying degrees of influence and authority to speak and act on behalf of the organization; however, there is every indication that regardless of the title he might or might not hold in any one corporate structure, Moon can and often does make the final decision on a course of action.”

The findings of the Fraser committee further describe the organization’s control this way:

(1)The UC and numerous other religious and secular organizations headed by Sun Myung Moon constitute essentially one international organization. This organization depends heavily upon the interchangeability of its components and upon its ability to move personnel and financial assets freely across international boundaries and between businesses and nonprofit organizations.

(2) The Moon Organization attempts to achieve goals outlined by Sun Myung Moon, who has substantial control over the economic, political, and spiritual activities undertaken by the organization in pursuit of those goals.

The Fraser Committee’s final report said Moon was the “key figure” in an “international network of organizations engaged in economic and political” activities. The Committee uncovered evidence that the Moon Organization “had systematically violated U.S. tax, immigration, banking, currency, and Foreign Agents Registration Act laws.” It also detailed how the Korean CIA paid Moon to stage demonstrations at the United Nations and run a pro-South Korean propaganda effort.

“We determined that their primary interest, at least in the United States at that time, was not religious at all, but was political,” said Michael Hershman, the Fraser Committee’s chief investigator. “It was an attempt to gain power and influence and authority.”
The Fraser Committee recommended that the White House form a task force to continue to investigate Moon – but that never happened.

Besides the money ‘invested’ in the Washington Times, Moon also invested in paid speaking fees to political figures, such as former President George H.W. Bush, who appeared at Moon-organized functions in the United States, Asia and South America. (At the 1996 launch of Moon’s South American newspaper, Bush hailed Moon as “the man with the vision.”) In 2004, he was even given space in the Senate’s Dirksen building for a coronation of himself as “savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.” (The Hill, June 22, 2004)

Now that the investments have paid off for him and his family is being split apart in a struggle to succeed him, don’t be surprised to see Moon & Co. avoid a nasty succession battle at the Times, and instead simply fold the money-sucking daily… But even if the Washington Times — Moon’s most expensive political project was a newspaper — does soon become history, history will also “surely record that Moon’s $3 billion-plus investment succeeded in buying a remarkable degree of Washington influence – and legal protection – for his dubious political/business/religious empire.”

As former Washington Times editor and publisher James Whelan concluded, “Washington is the most important single city in the world. If you can achieve influence, if you can achieve visibility, if you can achieve a measure of respect in Washington, then you fairly automatically are going to achieve these things in the rest of the world. There is no better agency, or entity or instrument that I know of for achieving power here or almost anywhere else — than a newspaper.”

Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor is the author of "Shock Jocks: Hate Speech and Talk Radio" (AlterNet Books, 2008). O'Connor also writes the Media Is A Plural blog.
 
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