McCain once tied to group linked to Iran-Contra affair
Was member of advisory board in the 1980s
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama has his William Ayers connection. John McCain may have an Iran-Contra connection. In the 1980s, he served on the advisory board to the US chapter of an international group linked to ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America.
The US Council for World Freedom aided rebels trying to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua. That landed the group in the middle of the Iran-Contra affair and in legal trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, which revoked the charitable organization's tax exemption.
The council created by retired Army Major General John Singlaub was the US chapter of the World Anti-Communist League, an international organization linked to former Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads in Central America. After setting up the US council, Singlaub served as the international league's chairman.
McCain's tie to Singlaub's council is undergoing renewed scrutiny after his campaign criticized Obama for his link to Ayers, a former radical who engaged in violent acts 40 years ago.
In two interviews in August and September, Singlaub said McCain became associated with the organization in the early 1980s as McCain launched his political career in Arizona. Singlaub said McCain was a supporter but not an active member in the group.
"McCain was a new guy on the block learning the ropes," Singlaub said.
"I think I met him in the Washington area when he was just a new congressman. We had McCain on the board to make him feel like he wasn't left out. It looks good to have names on a letterhead who are well-known and appreciated.
"I don't recall talking to McCain at all on the work of the group," Singlaub added.
McCain has said previously he resigned from the council in 1984 and asked in 1986 to have his name removed from the group's letterhead.
A news article and two documents tie McCain to the council in 1985, a year after he says he resigned. The group's Internal Revenue Service filing in 1985, covering the previous year, lists McCain as a member of the council's advisory board. In October 1985, a States News Service report placed McCain at a Washington awards ceremony staged by the council.
Yesterday, the McCain campaign said he disassociated himself from "one Arizona-based group when questions were raised about its activities."
Singlaub does not recall any McCain resignation in 1984 or May 1986. "If he didn't want to be on the board that's OK," Singlaub said. "It wasn't as if he had been an active participant and we were going to miss his help."
Covert arms shipments to the rebels called Contras, financed in part by secret arms sales to Iran, became known as the Iran-Contra affair.
In 1987, the Internal Revenue Service withdrew the tax-exempt status of Singlaub's group because of its activities on behalf of the Contras.
Elected to the House in 1982 and at a time when he was on the board of Singlaub's council, McCain was among Republicans on Capitol Hill expressing support for the Contras, a CIA-organized guerrilla force in Central America.