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One of the prime characteristics of the U.S. upper class is its high level of organization. One of the central organizations, accurately called "the citadel of America's establishment," is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Founded in 1921, the CFR is the most influential of all private policy planning groups. Its great strength is mainly exercised behind the scenes and stems from its unique position among policy groups: it is simultaneously both a think tank for foreign and economic policy and also has a large membership comprising some of the most important individuals in U.S. economic, intellectual, and political life. The Council has a yearly budget of about $30 million and a staff of over 200.
The CFR's think tank consists of three overlapping activities. One is convening an "influential forum," mainly held in New York and Washington, DC, where senior government and corporate leaders, prominent intellectuals, and foreign dignitaries meet with Council members to discuss and debate the U.S. role in the world and the strategy and tactics required to accomplish U.S. goals. Another think tank function is organizing and implementing a wide-ranging studies program where CFR fellows draw on members and others to collectively study a foreign policy issue. The result of this work is then reported and often presented to government officials as policy recommendations.
Council employees and members are often tapped to serve in the federal government in appointed positions, although a number also serve as elected officials, especially at the higher levels. Finally, the CFR publishes Foreign Affairs magazine, which often prints study group recommendations written by a prominent CFR fellow or member and in this way shapes policy debates as they emerge.
The Council's second key source of power, its membership function, is more informal, involving a network of almost 4,200 members from many backgrounds and professions. Membership in the Council is by invitation only: a potential member must be a U.S. citizen who has been nominated and seconded by other CFR members and elected by the Board of Directors. Two-thirds live in the New York and Washington, DC areas. Fully 31 percent (1,299 individuals) are from the corporate ("business") sector, with another 25 percent (1,071 individuals) coming from varied academic settings (professors, university administrators, researchers, fellows). Nonprofits contribute 15 percent (640), government 13 percent (541), law 8 percent (319), the media 6 percent (248), and "other" 2 percent (74). Members pay a yearly fee on a sliding scale, depending on age, occupation, and residence.
There is also a special category of corporate membership: executives from 200 "leading international companies representing a range of sectors" participate in special CFR programs. Corporations representing capital in its most abstract forms-the financial sector, the largest commercial and investment banks, insurance companies, and strategic planning corporations-are most heavily represented in the Council. Petroleum, military, and media companies also have fairly close connections. A review of director lists of major corporations found that the following corporations have at least three of their directors who are also CFR members:
* American Insurance Group and Citigroup: Eight directors
* J.P. Morgan Chase, Boeing: Six directors
* The Blackstone Group, Conoco, Disney/ABC: Five directors
* Kissinger-McLarty Associates, IBM, Exxon Mobil, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, Viacom/CBS, Time Warner: Four directors
* The Carlyle Group, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, First Boston. Washington Post/Newsweek, Chevron Texaco, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, Alliance Capital: Three directors
The Council's membership network consists of people one would expect to be CFR members-David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Peter G. Peterson, George Soros, Maurice Greenberg, Robert Rubin, George P. Shultz, Alan Greenspan, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard B. Cheney, and George Tenet-as well as individuals whose membership is more unexpected, such as John Sweeney, Jessie Jackson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Richard J. Barnet, and Daniel Schorr.
Bush, Kerry, and the CFR
Both Bush and Kerry are close to the CFR, draw most of their top foreign and economic policy advisers from this elite organization, and receive significant political funding from a number of Council-related individuals. While Bush is not personally a member of the CFR, his father was a member and a director of the Council in the 1970s and a large number of key members of his Administration are members. These include the so-called "neo-conservatives" who first became prominent in the CFR in the 1980s, when Reagan was president, and who have continued to play an important role since then. One of the key neo-con groups, Project for the New American Century, established in 1997 and identified by many as being the central organization behind the Bush administration, is heavily connected to the CFR. Fully 17 of the 25 founders of the Project for the New American Century are Council members.
CFR members who support Bush include key advisers or government officials in his Administration and also some key fundraisers who have helped make the Bush campaign fund by far the largest in the history of U.S. politics. In John Kerry's case, he is not only a long-time member (over 10 years) of the CFR, Teresa Heinz-Kerry is also a member. He has an even longer list of prominent Council supporters than Bush. Many of these supporters are economic and foreign policy advisers likely to play key roles in any Kerry presidency. Five current CFR directors and one current employee are openly supporting Kerry, most of them in advisory roles.