Talk:National Endowment for Democracy

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The following was removed from the main page of this article by CMD Staff for further review:

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a Washington D.C-based quasi-governmental organization funded by the U.S. which boasts that it is "supporting freedom around the world."[1]

Alan Weinstein, one of the founders of the NED, explained in 1991:

A lot of what we [NED] do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA[2]

Most of the NED, and its affiliated organizations, deals with influencing political processes abroad. The means employed range from influencing civil society, media, fostering business groups, lending support to preferred politicians/political parties, election monitoring, and fostering human rights groups. Depending on the level of development of the political system and the sophistication of politicians, different strategies are applied. In underdeveloped countries (e.g., Haiti), it involves developing the civil infrastructure/civil society groups, human right monitoring groups, and especially, bonding with the country's business elite. In more advanced countries, with a civil society base, the focus is on fostering politicians/elite who favor the neo-liberal economic/political model. From the NED's website it is evident that the principal regions where it seeks to influence political outcomes are the Middle East, the former Soviet republics, some countries in Latin America, and Africa.[3]

NED funding mostly flows through the four foundations listed below; these in turn are active in influencing "civil society" and electoral processes around the world, in a process sometimes referred to as "cloak and ballot" operations. While NED remains accountable to the US Congress and has to publish its disbursements, this doesn't apply to the organizations that it in turn finances.

Similar Organizations

There are many other groups undertaking similar activities around the world, and one witnesses today a proliferation of these groups promoting Democracy primarily in the Middle East. While "human rights" was the favored theme some decades ago, now the key word indicating political manipulation is "democracy". All these organizations are loosely modeled after the German model where early on the German government funded party-affiliated organizations meant to influence political processes elsewhere in the world.

See a list of similar organizations.


NED was founded during the Ronald Reagan presidency in 1982, and shaped by an initial study undertaken by the American Political Foundation.[4]

NED was created with a view to creating a broad base of political support for the organization. NED received funds from the U.S. government and distributes funds to four other organizations - one created by the Republican Party, another by the Democratic Party, one created by the business community and one by the "labor" movement (N.B.: the names of these organizations have changed over time):

Although publicly funded, the activities of these four institutes are not reported to Congress. According to William Robinson, "NED employs a complex system of intermediaries in which operative aspects, control relationships, and funding trails are nearly impossible to follow and final recipients are difficult to identify."

In a March 2005 interview, former CIA officer Philip Agee discussed the thinking behind NED's establishment:[5]

During the late 1970s there was new thinking at the highest levels of the U.S. foreign policymakers, and they reconsidered whether these ugly murderous military dictatorships of the 1970s were really the best way to preserve U.S. interests in these countries – U.S. interests being defined traditionally as unfettered access to the primary products and raw materials, to the labor and to the markets of foreign countries. This new thinking led to the establishment in 1983 of the National Endowment for Democracy. They had chosen the German pattern in which the major political parties in Germany have foundations financed by the federal government. They did more or less the same thing with the establishment of the NED as a private foundation – there is really nothing private about it, and all its money comes from the Congress.

But then there were the other core foundations – this was the fundamental mechanism for promotion of democracy around the world, but in actual fact, when they say the promotion of democracy, or civic education, or fortifying civil society, what they really mean is using those euphemisms to cover funding to certain political forces and not to others. In other words, to fortify the opposition of undesirable foreign governments as in the case of Venezuela, or to support a government that is favorable to US interests and avoid of coming to power of forces that are not seen as favorable to US interests. This will be the case since the early 1990s in Nicaragua because all those programs that were started in order to assure the defeat of Daniel Ortega in 1990 continued, and they continued to make sure that Sandinista Front was not reelected again after their defeat in 1990 – and that has been the case. These programs go on in various different countries and they require quite a bit of research. ... I am sure that one could find these programs in Mexico, Colombia, Peru probably, Brazil, and other countries outside the Latin American region.

Involvement in Foreign Political Processes

NED regularly provides funding to opposition candidates in elections in countries other than the USA. According to Allen Weinstein, one of the founders of NED, "A lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA" (Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, 2000, p. 180).

NED has principally supported candidates with strong ties to the military and who support the rights of U.S. corporations to invest in those countries with minimal restriction. The NED has not supported candidates who oppose investments by U.S. corporations or who promise restrictions on investment rights of U.S. corporations.

Tom Engelhardt notes that "we've seen "the Rose Revolution" in Georgia, "the Orange Revolution" in Ukraine, and now "the Tulip Revolution" in Kyrgyzstan, all heavily financed and backed by groups funded by or connected to the U.S. government and/or the Bush administration."[6] He then quotes Pepe Escobar, who writes:

"The whole arsenal of US foundations -- National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute, International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), Eurasia Foundation, Internews, among others -- which fueled opposition movements in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, has also been deployed in Bishkek [Kyrgyzstan]... Practically everything that passes for civil society in Kyrgyzstan is financed by these US foundations, or by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At least 170 non-governmental organizations charged with development or promotion of democracy have been created or sponsored by the Americans. The US State Department has operated its own independent printing house in Bishkek since 2002 -- which means printing at least 60 different titles, including a bunch of fiery opposition newspapers. USAID invested at least $2 million prior to the Kyrgyz elections -- quite something in a country where the average salary is $30 a month."[7]

Revolving Doorways

The close alignment of the NEDs activities with US foreign policy interests comes as no surprise, especially when you consider the revolving doorways between the US Government and the NED Board of Directors, some of the most notable of which include:

"...former US Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger (Nixon) and Madeleine Albright (Clinton), former US Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci (Reagan), former National Security Council Chair Zbigniew Brzezinski (Carter), former NATO Supreme Allied Command in Europe, General Wesley K. Clark (Clinton), and the current head of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz (George W. Bush). Another notable, Bill Brock, served as a US Senator, a US Trade Representative, and US Secretary of Labor, and then Chairman of the Board of NED." [7]

Fostering "Free Press"

In late 2004, Adam Wild Aba wrote, "The new intelligence law also directs the State Department to promote a free press and the development of 'professional journalists' in the Muslim world. It says free press is a must as part of the overall public diplomacy strategy for the Middle East, according to the State Department’s statement. Under the law, the National Endowment for Democracy shall fund a private-sector group to establish a free-media network to help participants share information concerning development of free media in 'societies in transition'."[8]

NED also supports the nonprofit organization Internews which encourages media worldwide to "promote democracy". In 2004, Internews had a budget of $27 million, 80 percent of which came from the U.S. government.

Covert embedded reporters

Several articles about the political process in Haiti, Iraq, and the Palestinian-occupied territories have appeared in The New York Times, NPR, and other mainstream US media. The impression is given that the articles are from bona fide journalists, but it transpires that several of them are paid by the NED or its affiliated organizations. The case of Regine Alexandre is particularly interesting. She wrote articles for the New York Times, AP, and commented on NPR. It transpires that she is on the NED payroll, and the NED confirmed this fact. However, when confronted with this information both the NYT and NPR failed to respond or take this seriously.

Source: Anthony Fenton and Dennis Bernstein, "AP reporter RéGINE is wearing two hats," Haiti, December 29, 2005.

Conducting polls

NED (or its satellite organizations) has been active in conducting election exit polls in Serbia, Ukraine, Venezuela. These results were used on occasion to cast doubt on the actual election results, and thus deligitimize the winner of the election, and thus create pressure for an election re-run. [9]

In December 2004, the NED-association organization International Republican Institute conducted a survey in Iraq to determine the popular intent to vote. It found that 75% of Iraqis would opt to vote, thus lending some legitimacy to the electoral exercise. However, IRI didn't poll the key cities where the insurgency is strong, i.e., Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul. [10] Such surveys lend legitimacy to so-called demonstration elections, or discredit electoral outcomes when the "wrong" candidate wins/or could win.

Meddling in Egypt

On 3 February 2011, Madeleine Albright, the head of NDI, the Democrat's NED affiliated group, stated that the NED was already active in Egypt to influence the post-Mubarak era.[11] NED has now been shown to have directly funded destabilizing elements including but not limited to Colonel Omar Afifi Soliman during pre and post-Morsi timeline from 2008 through 2012. [12]

Meddling in Syria

Jeffrey Blankfort reports:

[The NED] is currently involved in Syria where the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, headed by Radwan Ziadeh, has served as a front for its activities. Ziadeh is also the director of the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington DC, and has served as a spokesperson for the Syrian National Council, an organization of Syrian living abroad who have been calling for Western military intervention in Syria, a move that has been so far opposed by the opponents of the regime within the country. This has endeared him both to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Foreign Policy Intiative, two pro-Israel neocon think tanks that are the successors to the Project for the New American Century. A less well-known connection to Ziadeh is to the Fikra Forum (Fikra meaning "idea" in Arabic), which describes itself as "an online community that aims to generate ideas to support Arab democrats in their struggle against authoritarians and extremists, and to provide a platform for those in the region seeking to shape the future of their countries, and US-based decision makers and opinion leaders who are trying to understand and support those efforts." What the site doesn't say is that the Project Fikra is a project of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), arguably the most influential Capitol Hill think tank on Middle East issues. It was founded by AIPAC in 1985, and it has served as a vehicle to push Israel's agenda ever since – a fact that the mainstream media never mentions. The presence of 18 Fellows or Associates of WINEP, including several of its leading officials, as Fikra’s list of contributors alerted me to what pretends to be an independent forum. But to understand what is happening in Syria today it is necessary not only to consider the repressive history of the Syrian regime under Hafez El Assad, and now under his son Bashir, but also the outside forces represented by the likes of Radwan Ziadeh, that have co-opted what initially started as a peaceful non-violent protest for a democratic reordering of Syria society in the spirit of the Arab spring. Prior to the peaceful protest, those outside elements soon began to use them as a cover for armed attacks on government forces with the obvious intention of provoking the Assad regime with heavy military force, as it has – thereby leading for external demands for foreign intervention and the demand for Assad's ouster. Who is behind it? Well, the US, the British, the French, the Turks, the Saudis, Qatar and Israel.[13]

Critiques and Support

On the right, NED has been criticized by the Cato Institute which issued a briefing which states, "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." [8]

On its website, NED notes the criticism but responds that "over the years mainstream conservative activists have been among the most outspoken advocates on behalf of the Endowment. Endorsements of NED have been offered by the leadership of such stalwart conservative organizations as the Heritage Foundation and Empower America, and favorable editorials have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and National Review." [9]

In his 2004 State of the Union Speech, Bush proposed doubling funding for NED and called for a greater focus on "its new work on the development of free elections, and free markets, free press, and free labor unions in the Middle East. And above all, we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others, and help transform a troubled part of the world." [10]

In March 2006, a number of activists (including amongst many others Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal, Michael Parenti and David Harvey) launched a new US project called the International Endowment for Democracy which critiques the activities of the NED.

The Respect for Democracy Campaign is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice. [14]


NED receives an annual appropriation from the U.S. budget and, while a non-governmental organization, is subject to Congressional oversight. In the financial year to the end of September 2002 NED's budget was US$48.5 million. [11]

In December, 2005 PhD researcher Sreeram Chaulia noted that:

"...97 percent of NED’s funding comes from the US State Department (through USAID and before 1999, the USIA), the rest being allocations made by right-wing donors like the Bradley Foundation, the Whitehead Foundation and the Olin Foundation.( see)" [12]

Principals and Staff

National Endowment for Democracy: People

Affiliated Contractors

While most of NED's funding is directed towards the four affiliated core foundations, these in turn hire a variety of "consulting" companies. In the past, these have included:

Contact information

1025 F Street NW, Suite 800
Washington DC, 20004
Phone: (202) 378-9700

SourceWatch resources

External links

Websites critiquing the NED

Radio Commentary

Articles & commentary


  1. NED: history
  2. Washington Post 1991, quoted in Democracy Promotion,, 18 November 2010
  3. See Philip Agee interview. Agee was a CIA-whistleblower who exposed the CIA activities in Latin America. He then advised governments which were the target of US-covert operations seeking to undermine their countries. Agee consulted with the governments/nationalist politicians of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, Cuba.
  4. [1]
  5. Dennis Bernstein, Philip Agee, Former CIA agent speaks on Venezuela, Flashpoints, 14 March 2005. Or read longer section of the interview
  6. [2]
  7. [3]
  8. [4]
  9. [5]
  10. [6]
  11. Philip Giraldi, Uncle NED Comes Calling, Antiwar, 2 March 2011.
  12. 10 Jul 2013 - Al Jazeera, US bankrolled anti-Morsi activists, Emad Mekay is a journalist with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley
  13. 3:10 min mark, Takes on the World, 8 February 2012.
  14. Who We Are, Respect for Democracy Campaign, accessed June 20, 2008.

End Page Excerpt

The earlier version of this page had the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute listed under "Other Related SourceWatch Resources" -- but I couldnlt quite see what the link was meant to be and so have deleted it. Am I missign something? -- Bob

1. THE NATION's NED Connection--part 1 and

THE NATION's NED Connection--part 2 by bob feldman

2. John Brademas in the SourceWatch (

Institutions may change their names over the years; and while those changes should be noted, the original names should not be removed from the article, especially under a subtopic of "founding" or "origins". --Maynard