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Profile of the International Republican Institute by Right Web

Profile of the International Republican Institute  by Right Web

Profile of the International Republican Institute by Right Web

International Republican Institute

last updated: 3/3/2004


The International Republican Institute (IRI), which was initially known as the National Republican Institute for International Affairs, receives government funding for international democratization programs, principally from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Founded in 1983, it is “dedicated to advancing democracy, freedom, self-government, and the rule of law worldwide.” IRI states that it is an independent, nonprofit institute that is not affiliated with the Republican Party, and “is guided by the fundamental American principles of individual liberty, the rule of law and the entrepreneurial spirit.” (1)

The IRI is the indirect product of a new agenda of democratic globalism spearheaded in the late 1970s by neoconservatives and their allies in the AFL-CIO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and in the two political parties. This political project to create a quasi-governmental instrument for U.S. political aid came to fruition in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan proposed a new U.S.-led effort to promote free-market democracies around the world. In 1983 Congress approved the creation of NED. This new democratization initiative was funded primarily through the U.S. Information Agency and secondarily through USAID. Designed as a bipartisan institution, NED channels U.S. government funding through four core grantees: IRI, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI)—the AFL-CIO's international operations institute that is currently known as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).

Like NED itself and the other core grantees, the early focus of IRI was Central America and the Caribbean —a region that in the 1980s was cutting edge of the Reagan administration's revival of counterinsurgency and counter-revolutionary operations. After the Soviet bloc began to disintegrate in 1989, IRI says it “broadened its reach to support democracy around the globe.” (2) IRI has channeled U.S. political aid to partners—which like itself are often creations of U.S. funding—in 75 countries, and it currently has operations 50 countries. Most recently, it has expanded its operations into Central Asia, having opened offices in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. In Latin America, IRI has offices in Guatemala, Peru, and Haiti. In Africa, IRI has offices in Kenya, Nigeria, and Angola. IRI's offices in Asia are found in Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, and Mongolia. In Central and Eastern Europe, IRI has offices in Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Turkey. There is also an IRI office in Moscow. (3)

The principals of IRI span the center right-far right spectrum of the internationalists in the Republican Party. Most of its staff and board have links to right-wing think tanks, foundations, and policy institutes, while many also represent major financial, oil, and defense corporations. George A. Folsom, IRI's president and CEO, was a member of the Bush-Cheney Transition Team, serving on the Treasury Department task force. An international investment banker, Folsom was a leading member of the Scowcroft Group, an international advisory firm headed by Brent Scowcroft. An adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Folsom is a frequent guest at forums and strategy sessions hosted by the Heritage Foundation, National Defense University, American Enterprise Institute, and Washington Institute for Near East Policy. IRI's vice president of strategic planning and Latin America expert is Georges Fauriol, the former director of the Americas program at CSIS, where he cochaired with Ambassador Otto Reich the Americas Forum, a hemispheric network of like-minded policy professionals. Among other affiliations of Fauriol are his work with the right-wing Foreign Policy Research Institute and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). Since the early 1980s Fauriol has worked closely with right-wing Cuban Americans such as Otto Reich and is a member of the Center for a Free Cuba. Among the corporations represented on the IRI's board are Lockheed Martin (Alison Fortier), Chevron Texaco (Michael Kostiw), AOL Time Warner (Robert Kimmitt), and Ford (Janet Mullins Grissom). Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is IRI's chair. Michael Grebe, the president and CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and former general counsel to the Republican National Committee, sits on IRI's board. Other prominent IRI board members include: J. William Middendorf, Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., and Brent Scowcroft. (4)

Democracy Building and an Attempted Coup in Venezuela

After the April 2002 aborted coup against Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, many observers accused Washington of having been behind the attempted ouster. The Bush administration denied any U.S. involvement in the affair. However, one relatively clear connection has emerged between the U.S. government and the anti-Chávez movement: millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money channeled through the IRI and other U.S. organizations, including CIPE and ACLIS, that funded groups opposed to Chávez during the years preceding the April coup.

Mike Cesar, an analyst for the IRC's Americas Program, reported that in an April 12 facsimile sent to news media, IRI President George A. Folsom rejoiced over Chávez' removal from power. "The Venezuelan people rose up to defend democracy in their country," he wrote. "Venezuelans were provoked into action as a result of systematic repression by the government of Hugo Chávez." (5) With NED funding, IRI had been sponsoring political party-building workshops and other anti-Chávez activities in Venezuela. “IRI evidently began opposing Chávez even before his 1998 election,” wrote Cesar, “Prior to that year's congressional and presidential elections, the IRI worked with Venezuelan organizations critical of Chávez to run newspaper ads, TV, and radio spots that several observers characterize as anti-Chávez.” Furthermore, “The IRI has also flown groups of Chávez opponents to Washington to meet with U.S. officials. In March 2002, a month before Chávez's brief ouster, one such group of politicians, union leaders, and activists traveled to DC to meet with U.S. officials, including members of Congress and State Department staff. The trip came at the time that several military officers were calling for Chávez' resignation and talk of a possible coup was widespread.” One opposition figure to benefit from IRI support said that bringing varied government opponents together in Washington accelerated the unification of the opposition. "The democratic opposition began to become cohesive," he said. "We began to become a team." (6) (7)

Democracy Building and Coup in Haiti

In the first year of the Bush administration, IRI received funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for a new “Party Building Project.” IRI, which in 1987 began working “with the Haitian people in their quest for democracy,” has sponsored various projects in election-monitoring, polling, party building, and civil society support since 1990. Its latest USAID-funded party building project has focused on working with the political opposition living outside Haiti . By creating a website and a listserv, IRI states that it is using U.S. political aid funding that allows “political parties, civil society, the Haitian Diaspora, Caribbean constituencies, and representatives of the international community to explore solutions to Haiti's democracy and governance obstacles.” (8) (9) (10) (11)

According to Robert Maguire, director of the Haiti Program at Trinity College in Washington, DC, “NED and USAID are important, but actually the main actor is the International Republican Institute (IRI), which has been very active in Haiti for many years but particularly in the last three years. IRI has it been working with the opposition groups. IRI insisted, through the administration, that USAID give it funding for its work in Haiti. And USAID has done so but kicking and screaming all the way. IRI has worked exclusively with the Democratic Convergence groups in its party building exercises and support. The IRI point person is Stanley Lucas who historically has had close ties with the Haitian military. All of the IRI sponsored meetings with the opposition have occurred outside Haiti, either in the DR or in the United States. The IRI ran afoul with Aristide right from the beginning since it has only worked with opposition groups that have challenged legitimacy of the Aristide government. Mr. Lucas is a lightning rod of the IRI in Haiti. The U.S. could not have chosen a more problematic character through which to channel its aid.” (12)


IRI states: “IRI is federally funded through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The Institute also receives grants and donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.” (1)
Right Web connections

Jeane Kirkpatrick
Jim Kolbe
Randy Scheunemann
Otto Reich
George A. Folsom (IRI Bio)
Georges A. Fauriol (IRI Bio)
Organization connections

Washington Institute for Near East Policy
American Enterprise Institute
Empower America
Bradley Foundation
National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
Contact Information

International Republican Institute (IRI)
1225 Eye Street, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.408.9450
Fax: 202.408.9462


(1) International Republican Institute

(2) International Republican Institute

(3) International Republican Institute

(4) International Republican Institute

(5) "IRI President Folsom Praises Venezuelan Civil Society's Defense of Democracy"
PRNewswire, April 12, 2002

(6) Mike Ceaser, "As Turmoil Deepens in Venezuela, Questions Regarding NED Activities Remain Unanswered," Americas Program, (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, December 9, 2002).

(7) Also see these reports:
"U.S. Bankrolling Is Under Scrutiny for Ties to Chávez Ouster"
Christopher Marquis | New York Times, April 25, 2002
"U.S. Shadow Over Venezuela"
Conn Hallinan | Foreign Policy In Focus, April 17, 2002

(8) “IRI” in Haiti,” International Republican Institute

(9) USAID, “FY 2004 Congressional Budget Justification”

(10) Haiti Get Involved, International Republican Institute

(11) For a history of U.S. political aid in Haiti, see:
Beth Sims, "Populism, Conservatism, and Civil Society in Haiti," IRC Right Web (Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, April 1992, reprinted March 2004).

(12) Interview with Haiti Expert Robert Maguire
Aristide's Fall: The Undemocratic U.S. Policy in Haiti
Interview by IRC's Policy Director Tom Barry with Robert Maguire, director of the Haiti Program at Trinity College in Washington, DC. | February 27, 2004

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By Ahmad Koson ( on Thursday, September 01, 2005 - 1:06 pm: Edit Post

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