Freedom House

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Freedom House is a non-profit organization that relies upon tax-deductible grants and donations under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code.[1] Corporate researcher Holly Sklar described it as a "conservative research, publishing, networking, and selective human rights organization."[1]. Freedom House's work is linked to the "democracy promotion" efforts of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Freedom House is a small but influential organization with bases in Washington and New York. In 2006 it was reported to have more than 120 offices around the world and an annual budget of US$19 million[2]. A high percentage of its funding is reported to come from the State Department (an average of 95% between 2000 and 2003) and it is described as having a list of trustees 'consisting of a Who's Who of neoconservatives from government, business, academia, labor, and the press'[3]


Freedom House describes itself as non-partisan and broad-based, "a clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world." It was founded "nearly sixty years ago by Eleanor Roosevelt, Wendell Willkie, and other Americans concerned with the mounting threats to peace and democracy, Freedom House has been a vigorous proponent of democratic values and a steadfast opponent of dictatorships of the far left and the far right."[4]

According to the website of the Mudd Manuscript Library:

Freedom House was conceived in 1941 during a discussion between Herbert and Eleanor Agar, Dorothy Thompson, George Field and Ulric Bell, on how to merge several local organizations that were advocating an end to United States isolationism. Field offered a simple solution: house all the organizations in one building. A physical merger would take place, but administratively the organizations would remain separate. Hence on October 31, 1941 Freedom House was officially incorporated in the state of New York as a non-partisan democratic challenge to the Braunhaus in Munich, a center for Nazi propaganda.[5]

The website goes on to state:

From the outset, Freedom House drew upon the resources of its founders. George Field headed the New York chapter of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, Herbert Agar was active in Fight for Freedom, Inc., while Dorothy Thompson was the founder of Ring of Freedom, all of whom served on the original Freedom House Board of Directors. Freedom House acquired a significant number of members when these organizations merged with it administratively in 1942.[5]

Freedom House sees itself "at the center of the struggle for freedom ... It was an outspoken advocate of the Marshall Plan and NATO in the 1940s, of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, of the Vietnam boat people in the 1970s, of Poland's Solidarity movement and the Filipino democratic opposition in the 1980s, and of the many democracies that have emerged around the world in the 1990s ... Freedom House has vigorously opposed dictatorships in Central America and Chile, apartheid in South Africa, the suppression of the Prague Spring, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda, and the brutal violation of human rights in Cuba, Burma, China, and Iraq ... It has championed the rights of democratic activists, religious believers, trade unionists, journalists, and proponents of free markets. In 1997, a consolidation took place whereby the international democratization training programs of the National Forum Foundation were incorporated into Freedom House."[2]

Board of Trustees

The Freedom House Board of Trustees is described as "composed of leading Democrats, Republicans, and independents; business and labor leaders; former senior government officials; scholars; writers; and journalists."[3]

In 2009, Freedom House listed their Trustees as[6]:

William H. Taft IV, Chair Ruth Wedgwood, Vice-Chair - also with Council on Foreign Relations, International Institute for Strategic Studies & Defense Policy Board Thomas A. Dine, Vice-Chair - former CEO with Jewish Community Federation & Executive Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
Walter J. Schloss, Treasurer John Norton Moore, Secretary, Governance & Ethics Officer - former Chairman of the United States Institute of Peace whcih he helped to establish Max M. Kampelman, Chairman Emeritus
Bette Bao Lord, Chairman Emeritus Kenneth L. Adelman Susan J. Bennett - reported & editor. Also member of the Council on Foreign Relations
James H. Carter Antonia Cortese Lee Cullum - also with the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Pacific Council on International Policy, American Council on Germany, Inter American Dialogue & National Committee on U.S.-China Relations
Paula J. Dobriansky - former Senior Vice President and Director with the Council on Foreign Relations & Associate Director for Policy and Programs at the U. S. Information Agency Alan P. Dye Stuart Eizenstat
Carleton S. (Carly) Fiorina - formerly served Hewlett-Packard Company (1999-2005), AT&T and Lucent Technologies Sidney Harman - founder & chairman of Harman/Kardon (now known as Harman International Industries. Serves the Boards of the Aspen Institute, BENS (Business Executives for National Security), is a member of the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Council on Competiveness. Trustee of the Martin Luther King Center for Social Change, the Public Agenda Foundation and The Carter Center D. Jeffrey Hirschberg - partner & managing director of Kalorama Partners. Formerly served Howrey Simon Arnold & White, was Vice-Chairman of Ernst & Young, Director of the US-Russia Business Council and served Administration & Congressional oversight committees
John T. Joyce - president of the International Construction Institute, member of the Advisory Committee on Labor Diplomacy to the President and the Secretaries of State and Labor, on the boards of the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute and the Commission on Central American Reconstruction and Redevelopment. Formerly with AFL-CIO, the the International Labor Organization (ILO), International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and was a founding board member of venture capital fund Poland Partners Kathryn Dickey Karol - Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs of Amgen. Former Assistant Vice President of Global Government Affairs at Eli Lilly and served the International Republican Institute She is reported to have 'held various other positions in the U.S. government agencies of Treasury and the Central Intelligence Agency'.
Farooq Kathwari - Chairman, President & CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. Member of Council on Foreign Relations, Trustee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and is a member of the American Committees on Foreign Relations. Awards include “National Human Relations Award” by the American Jewish Committee and Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award Anthony Lake - Professor with Georgetown University. Former Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Lawrence Lessig
Michael Lewan - Principal and founder of law firm, Brown Rudnick which 'represents a wide cross section of Fortune 500 companies as well as some of the most important trade associations in the American business community'. Lewan has 'close relationships in both the House and Senate' and prior to founding Brown Rudnick, he was President of the Michael Lewan Company: which specialized in developing and executing public policy strategies for domestic and international corporations Jay Mazur- President Emeritus of UNITE and member of the Holocaust Memorial Council and of the US-South Africa Business Development Committee. Theodore N. Mirvis - trustee of the Jerusalem Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors and Board of Overseers of the Center for Jewish History in New York City
Dalia Mogahed - member of the Crisis in the Middle East Task Force of the Brookings Institution and Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. Mogahed has spoken at events with the World Economic Forum and the Brookings Institution’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum Joshua Muravchik - serves the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Democracy and the Journal of International Security Affairs. He also serves as an adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and as an adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics. He was a former resident scholar at AEI Azar Nafisi
David Nastro - Managing Director with Morgan Stanley where he is Head of the Global Power and Utility Group which works with the Firm’s power, gas, water and utility clients Andrew Nathan - is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is on the boards of Human Rights in China, China Labor Watch, the Journal of Democracy, the China Quarterly, the Journal of Contemporary China, and China Information. Diana Villiers Negroponte - Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, member of the Board of the Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. Former Senior Scholar at the U.S. Institute of Peace & served the American Chamber of Commerce (preparing for NAFTA)
P. J. O'Rourke - Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and a member of the World Affairs editorial board. Mark Palmer - President of Capital Development Company LLC, serves on the boards of the International Centre for Democratic Transition, Council for a Community of Democracies, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, American Academy of Diplomacy and New Tang Dynasty Television. He is also a member of the Secretary of State’s Democracy Advisory Committee. His biography states that he 'wrote speeches for six secretaries of state and three presidents, including President Reagan’s speech to the British Parliament in 1982 which led to the establishment of the National Endowment for Democracy. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and then U.S. Ambassador to Hungary during what his biography describes as 'the crucial period for bringing down Europe’s communist dictators' Carlos Pascual - Vice President & Director of the Foreign Policy Studies Program (FPS) at the Brookings Institution. He serves on the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy, the Internews Network and is on the Advisory Group for the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund. Formerly, he served 23 years in the United States Department of State, National Security Council (NSC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
Scott Siff - Executive Vice President of Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates (communications strategy firm that provides advice to Fortune 100 companies), he 'oversees the work for some of the company’s most important clients on issues ranging from competitive positioning and strategic communications development' as well as overseeing the company’s marketing and PR operations. Former personal advisor to then British Prime Minister Tony Blair Arthur Waldron - vice president of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and on the Board of Directors of the Jamestown Foundation. Former Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Richard S. Williamson - Board of directors of the International Republican Institute, the board of the Committee in Support of Russian Civil Society, advisory committee member for the International Human Rights Center at DePaul University and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly served in senior foreign policy positions under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush
Wendell L. Willkie II - Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of MeadWestvaco Corporation. Former Associate Counsel to the President under President Reagan, acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush and fellow in legal policy and international trade at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.



NB: These organizations often co-host events, there is personnel overlap, and at some point have shared offices.

The Monthly Review Foundation reports in an article describing the history of Freedom House that some of the affiliations of its trustees and associates included the State Department, the National Security Council (Jeane Kirkpatrick), the CIA (through front groups), the U.S. Information Agency, the Trilateral Commission (Zbigniew Brzezinski), the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Committee on the Present Danger, Accuracy in Media, the American Enterprise Institute, Crisis, The New Republic and PRODEMCA (a group that is reported to have raised funds and lobbied for the Contras). During the 1980s, it is claimed that Freedom House also formed the Afghanistan Information Center, one of several NED-funded groups supporting the mujahedin. This was reportedly to have complement the government's US $3,000 million covert funding program for the anti-Soviet groups.[7]


New York Office

120 Wall Street, Floor 26
New York, NY 10005
Phone: 212-514-8040
FAX: 212-514-8055

Washington D.C. Office

1319 18th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
Phone: 202-296-5101
FAX: 202-296-5078

External Resources


  1. Sklar, H. (1989) 'Washington Wants to Buy Nicaragua's Elections Again: A Guide to US Operatives and Nicaraguan Parties,' Z Magazine, December 1989
  2. Freedom House Freedom House Statement on the Passing of George Field 1st June 2006. Accessed 14th may 2009
  3. Barahona, B. (2007) The Freedom House Files MR Zine A project of the Monthly Review Foundation. 3/1/07. Accessed 14th May 2009
  4. Freedom House About Accessed 2006
  5. 5.0 5.1 Freedom House Archives 1936-1999, Princeton Univ., Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, accessed 21 April 2012.
  6. Freedom House Board of Trustees Accessed 15th May 2009
  7. Barahona, B. (2007) The Freedom House Files MR Zine A project of the Monthly Review Foundation. 3/1/07. Accessed 14th May 2009