Oliver L. North told Nelson Bunker Hunt “I don’t care if I have to go to jail. . . . I don’t care if I have to lie to Congress,” a conservative fund-raiser for the Contras testified today.
Carl Channell said he overheard North make the comment to Hunt at the close of a meeting at the Petroleum Club in Dallas on Sept. 11, 1985.
Channell had arranged to make a plane available for North to fly down from Washington so that the White House aide could describe the Contras’ military needs to Hunt, a wealthy Texas businessman.
North talked to Hunt about $5-million to $6-million worth of items the Contras needed “to stay alive,” Channell recalled, including planes, two types of ammunition, clothing, food and medical supplies. After dinner, as they prepared to leave the club, Channell listened as North and Hunt discussed Central American politics.
Hunt asked North whether he was worried about “getting in trouble,” Channell recalled. “Ollie said ‘No, I don’t care if I have to go to jail for this. I don’t care if I have to lie to Congress about this,’ ” Channel testified.
Hunt just “chortled,” Channell recalled.
Hunt eventually contributed $237,500 to Channell’s tax-exempt National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty and also made a $237,500 loan to the organization.
Channell pleaded guilty on April 29, 1987, to depriving the government of tax revenue by using NEPL to solicit contributions for military equipment for the Contras.
One of the 12 criminal charges against North is that he conspired to defraud the Treasury of tax revenue. Six of the charges accuse North of making false statements and obstructing Congress by attempting to hide his efforts on behalf of the Contras.
Channell said North worked closely with the private fund-raising operation for the Contras.
He said that after one contributor, John Ramsey of Wichita Falls, Tex., wired money to pay for a Contra shipment that was about to be unloaded, North sent him a mailgram saying, “Thank you for the help on such short notice.”
North ended a powerful address and slide show to 30 potential contributors on June 27, 1985, at the Old Executive Office Building by displaying a picture of the grave of what he said was a young Contra soldier and saying, “Can’t American do better than this? America should be doing better than this,” according to Channell.
During the congressional Iran-Contra hearings two years ago, North testified, “I do not recall ever asking a single, solitary American citizen for money.”