Diamonds for the Antichrist

This is the exposé I wrote for The Guardian that killed off “Reverend” Pat Robertson’s billion-dollar financial scams parading under the banner of The Christian Coalition.

Note: The juiciest parts I got from Robertson himself, recorded on a miniature reel-to-reel tape recorder hidden inside a fake cigarette lighter.

No-one asked why I had a cigarette lighter—but no cigarettes.  The story won The Guardian a nomination for Britain’s Business Story of the Year.

Today, Rev. Pat passed away. I’m sure that as I write this, the de-frocked Reverend will be greeted at the burning gates by his host, “Pleased to meet you, Reverend. Hope you guessed my name….”

By Greg Palast for The Guardian

It’s time someone told you the truth. There is an Invisible Cord easily traced from the European bankers who ordered the assassination of President Lincoln to German Illuminati and the “communist rabbi” who is the  connecting link to Karl Marx, the Trilateral Commission, the House of Morgan and the British bankers who, in turn, funded the Soviet KGB. This is the “tightly knit cabal whose goal is nothing less than a new order for the human race under the domination of Lucifer.”

You don’t know about Invisible Cord? Then you haven’t read New World Order by the financier named chairman of the Bank of Scotland’s American consumer bank holding company: Dr. Marion “Pat” Robertson.

In May 1999, the oldest financial enterprise in the English-speaking world, the Bank of Scotland, decided to launch into the cyber-future with the largest-ever telephone and Internet bank operation, to be based in the US. Their choice of partner and chairman for the enterprise, US televangelist “Reverend” Robertson, raised some eyebrows in Briton.  But the United Kingdom’s business elite could dismiss objections with a knowing condescension.  To them, Robertson was just another Southern-fried Elmer Gantry bigot with a slick line of Lordy-Jesus hoodoo who could hypnotize a couple of million American goobers into turning over their bank accounts to the savvy Scots.

I had a different view of the Reverend Pat. For years, I’d kept tabs on the demi-billionaire media mogul who had chosen one president of the United States (named Bush) and would choose another (same name) … and who left a scent of sulphur on each of his little-known investments from China to the Congo. The Feds were already on his case, but I could speak  to insiders in the born-again Christian community, once high in Reverend Pat’s billion-dollar religious-commercial-political empire, who would never talk to officialdom.  Their evidence suggests the Reverend broke a number of commandments handed down by the Highest Authority: the IRS.

Interestingly, the Scottish bank’s official biography of Robertson failed to mention New World Order, the 1991 bestseller which a Wall Street Journal review uncharitably described as written by “a paranoid pinhead with a deep distrust of democracy.”

The bank left out much about this man of wealth and taste, for example, that Dr. Robertson is best known to Americans as the leader of the 1.2 million-strong ultra-right political front, Christian Coalition. The Bank of Scotland says it is not concerned with Dr. Robertson’s religious beliefs. Nor, apparently, is Dr Robertson concerned with theirs. He has called Presbyterians, members of Scotland’s established Church, “the spirit of the Antichrist.”

What would entice the Bank of Scotland to join up with a figure described by one unkind civil liberties organization as “the most dangerous man in America”? Someone more cynical than me might suspect that the Bank of Scotland covets Dr. Robertson’s fiercely loyal following of two million conspiracy wonks and Charismatic Evangelicals.

A former business partner of Robertson’s explained The Reverend’s hypnotic pull on their wallets: “These people believe he has a hot-line to God. They will hand him their life savings.” Robertson drew believers to his other commercial ventures. “People remortgaged their homes to invest in his businesses,” the insider told me. If he Pat Robertson, General Pinochet, Pepsi-Cola and the Antichrist did use his ministry to promote his business, this would cross several legal boundaries.

When we finally met, Dr. Robertson swore to me he will keep bank commerce, Christianity and the Coalition completely separate. But a look into the Robertson empire, including interviews with his former and current business associates, reveals a hidden history of mixing God, gain and Republican campaign. Not all has been well concealed. Tax and regulatory authorities have tangled for decades with his supposedly non-partisan operations.  But government gumshoes still missed some of the more interesting evidence of self-dealing, and worse. The combination of Christianity and cash has made Dr. Robertson a man whose net worth is estimated at somewhere between $200 million and $1 billion. He himself would not confirm his wealth except to tell me that his share in the reported $50 million start-up investment in the bank deal is too small for him to have taken note of the sum.

Neil Volder, president of Robertson’s financial business and future CEO of the bank venture, emphasizes Robertson’s selflessly donating to his church 65–75 per cent of his salary as head of International Family Entertainment. I was surprised: that amounted to only a few hundred thousand dollars yearly, pocket change for a man of Dr. Robertson’s means. There was also, says Volder, the $7 million he gave to “Operation Blessing” to help alleviate the woes of refugees fleeing genocide in Rwanda. Or did he? Robertson’s press operation puts the sum at only $1.2 million – and even that amount could not be corroborated.

More interesting is how the “Operation Blessing” funds were used in Africa.

Through an emotional fundraising drive on his TV station, Robertson raised several million dollars for the tax-free charitable trust. “Operation Blessing” purchased planes to shuttle medical supplies in and out of the refugee camp in Goma, Congo (then Zaire). However, investigative reporter Bill Sizemore of the Virginian-Pilot discovered that, except for one medical flight, the planes were used to haul heavy equipment for something called the African Development Corporation, a diamond mining operation distant from Goma. African Development is owned by Pat Robertson.

Did Robertson know about the diversion of the relief planes? According to the pilots’ records, he himself flew on one plane ferrying equipment to his mines.  One of Robertson’s former business partners speaking on condition of confidentiality told me that, although he often flew with Dr. Robertson in the minister’s jet, he never saw Robertson crack open a Bible or seek private time for prayer. “He always had the Wall Street Journal open and Investors’ Daily.” But on the Congo flight, Robertson did pray. The pilot’s diary notes, “Prayer for diamonds.”

Volder told me that Robertson’s diverting the planes for diamond mining was actually carrying out God’s work. The planes, he asserts, proved unfit for hauling medicine, so Robertson salvaged them for the diamond hunt which, if successful, would have “freed the people of the Congo from lives of starvation and poverty.” None the less, the Virginia State Attorney General opened an investigation of “Operation Blessing.”

Volder asserts that Robertson was “not trying to earn a profit, but to help people.” As it turned out, he did neither. The diamond safari went bust, as did Robertson’s ventures in vitamin sales and multi-level marketing. These disastrous investments added to his losses in oil refining, the money pit of the Founders Inn Hotel, his jet leasing fiasco and one of England’s classier ways of burning money, his buying into Laura Ashley Holdings (he was named a director). One cannot term a demi-billionaire a poor businessman but, excepting the media operations handed him by his non-profit organization, Robertson the “entrepreneur” seems  to have trouble keeping enterprises off the rocks. Outside the media, Robertson could not cite for me any commercial success.

Undeniably, Dr. Robertson is a master salesman. To this I can attest after joining the live audience in Virginia Beach for 700 Club, his daily television broadcast.  The day I arrived, he was selling miracles. Following a mildly bizarre “news” segment, Dr. Robertson shut his eyes and went into a deep trance. After praying for divine assistance for his visions, he announced, “There is somebody who has cancer of the intestines … God is healing that right now and you will live! … Somebody called Michael has a deep chest cough … God is healing you right now!”

It is not clear why the Lord needs the intervention of an expensive cable TV operation to communicate to Michael. But more intriguing theological issues are raised by the program hosts’ linking miracles to donations made to Robertson’s organization. In a taped segment, a woman’s facial scars healed after her sister joined the 700 Club (for the required donation of $20 per month). “She didn’t realize how close to her contribution a miracle would arrive.” It ended, “Carol was so grateful God healed her sister, she increased her pledge from the 700 Club to the 1000 Club,” which means kicking up her monthly pay-out to Pat to $84.

The miracles add up. In 1997, Christian Broadcast Network, Robertson’s “ministry”, took in $164 million in donations plus an additional $34 million in other income.

Earlier tidal waves of tax-deductible cash generated by this daily dose of holiness and hostility paid for the cable television network which was sold in 1990 to Rupert Murdoch, along with the old sit-coMs  that filled the nonreligious broadcast hours, for $1.82 billion. Seven years prior to the sale of this media bonanza, the tax-exempt group “spun it off” to a for-profit corporation whose controlling interest was held by Dr. Robertson. Lucky Pat.

Robertson donated hundreds of millions of dollars from the Murdoch deal to both Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) and CBN (now Regent) University.   That still left Robertson burdened with heavy load of cash to carry through the eye of the needle.

Cosmetics for Christian Crusaders

In his younger days, Robertson gave up worldly wealth to work in the Black ghettos of New York. But, says former Coalition executive Judy Liebert, “Pat’s changed.”  She noted that he gave up his ordination as a Baptist minister in 1988. (He is still called, incorrectly, “Reverend” by the media.) His change in 1988 was accelerated when, says another associate, his former TV co-host Danuta Soderman Pfeiffer, “he was ensnared by the idea that God called him to run for president of the United States.”

The 1988 run for the Oval Office began with Robertson’s announcing his endorsement by The Almighty.  I asked Volder how Robertson could have lost the Republican primary if God was his campaign manager.  But the Lord did not tell Robertson to win, He told Pat to run.  And this “losing” race generated a mailing list of three million sullen Americans of the heartland whose rage was given voice by Robertson forming, out of defeat, the Christian Coalition.  Volder offers that this may have been, in fact, the Lord’s stratagem: to generate the fearsome lists. The Coalition lists, like the CBN lists, are worth their weight in gold.

One doubts the Lord would permit the use of this list of Crusaders to line to Reverend’s pockets.  Indeed, Robertson swore to me they would not be used in for the banking business.  And whatever the Lord’s intent, to dip into the Coalition lists uncompensated to promote the new bank would breach the law.

But abuse of these lists lies at the heart of charges by ex-partners.  Two former top executives in the for-profit operations who have never previously spoken to media (nor government) state that Robertson personally directed use of both the tax-exempt religious group’s lists and the “educational” Christian Coalition lists to build what became Kalo-Vita, The Reverend’s pyramid sales enterprise which sold vitamins and other products.

Kalo-Vita collapsed in 1992 due to poor management amid lawsuits charging deception.  A former officer of the company alleges some operations were funded, without compensation, including offices, phones and secretarial help, by the ministry, stretching laws both secular and ecclesiastical.   When insiders questioned Robertson’s using viewers’ donations for a personal enterprise, Robertson produced minutes of Board meetings that characterized as “loans” the Kalo-Vita start-up capital obtained from CBN. According to insiders not all Board members were made aware of these meetings until months after they were supposedly held.  Could Dr. Pat have manufactured records of non-existent meetings?  His spokesman responds that they are unfamiliar with the facts of the allegation.

The executives were also alarmed about Dr. Robertson’s preparing to use the 20,000-strong and growing Kalo-Vita sales force as “an organizational structure to back his political agenda” – and partisan ambitions. US federal investigators never got wind of this alleged maneuver.  (US law bars corporations from giving direct aid to political candidates.)

“Why Not Just Blow My Brains Out?” – The Missing Bush Papers

Besides the Kalo-Via lists, there is evidence Robertson used Christian Coaltion mailing lists to help political candidates, especially one named Bush.  A September 15, 1992 memo from the Coalition’s then president, Ralph Reed to the coordinator of President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign says Robertson “is prepared to assist … [by] the distribution of 40 million voter guides … This is a virtually unprecedented level of cooperation and assistance … from Christian leaders.” Unprecedented and illegal, said the Federal Elections Commission, which sued the Christian Coalition, technically a tax- exempt educational corporation, for channelling campaign support worth tens of millions of dollars to Republican candidates. The action was extraordinary because it was brought by unanimous vote of the bipartisan commission which cited, among other things, the Coalition’s favoring Colonel Ollie North with copies of its lists for North’s failed run for the US Senate.

Records subpoenaed from the Christian Coalition contain a set of questions and answers concocted by the Coalition and the Republican Party for a staged 1992 “interview” with Bush broadcast on the 700 Club. This caught my eye first, because it appears to constitute a prohibited campaign commercial and second, because Robertson months earlier claimed Bush was “unwittingly carrying out the mission of Lucifer.” With Bush running behind Bill Clinton, Robertson must have decided to stick with the devil he knew.

But the government will never see the most incriminating documents. Judy Liebert, formerly Chief Financial Officer for the Christian Coalition, told me she was present when Coalition President Reed personally destroyed documents subpoenaed by the government. Also, when Liebert learned that the Coalition had printed Republican campaign literature (illegal if true), she discovered that the evidence, contained in the hard drive of her computer, had been removed. Indeed, the entire hard drive had been mysteriously pulled from her machine – but not before she had made copies of the files.

When Liebert complained to Robertson about financial shenanigans at the Coalition, “Pat told me I was ‘unsophisticated’. Well, that is a strange thing for a Christian person to say to me.”   The Christian Coalition CFO told me that Ralph Reed, a big Republican operative even today, “would got through [the subpoenaed documents] and throw everything on the floor – I mean just pitch it – just take it and throw it on the floor.” (As Arthur Andersen executives can now attest, that’s called Obstruction of Justice.)  When challenged on the legality (and Christianity) of such actions, Reed reportedly said, “Why don’t you just take a gun and blow my brains out.”

The Coalition has attacked Liebert as a disgruntled ex-employee whom they fired. She responded that she was sacked only after she went to government authorities – and after she refused an $80,000 severance fee that would have required her to remain silent about the Coalition and Robertson. The Feds, notes the Coalition, have never acted on Liebert’s charge of evidence-tampering.

Little of this information has been reported in the press. Why? The three-hour dog and pony show I was put through at the CBN-Robertson financial headquarters in Virginia Beach culminated in an hour-long diatribe by his CEO Volder about how Robertson was certain to sue any paper that did not provide what he called a “balanced” view. He boasted that by threatening use of Britain’s draconian libel laws and Robertson’s bottomless financial treasure chest, one of his lawyers “virtually wrote” a laudatory profile of Robertson in a UK newspaper. As in the days when the Inquisition required recalcitrants to view instruments of torture, I was made to understand in detail the devastation that would befall me if my paper did not report what was “expected” of me.

This was said, like all the Robertson team’s damning anthems, in a sweet, soft Virginia accent.

Would Dr. Robertson use his ministry’s following to promote the Bank of Scotland operation (a legal no-no)? Despite Robertson’s protests to the contrary, his banking chief Volder laid out a plan to reach the faithful, including appearances of bank members of the 700 Club, mailings to lists coincident with their own, and “infomercials” just after the religious broadcasts. This is just the type of mixing that has so upset the election commission and the Internal Revenue Service, which in 1998 retroactively stripped Christian Broadcasting of its tax-exempt status for 1986 and 1987.

What My Cigarette Lighter Overheard

It was most difficult to convince the Reverend’s protectors to let me speak directly to “The Doctor” (as they call him) at his compound in Virginia; and once there, getting my wire through the metal detector. (“Officer, could you please hold my cigarette lighter?”)

I met The Doctor in his dressing room following his televised verbal intercourse with God. Robertson, though three hours under the spotlight, didn’t break a sweat. He peeled off his make-up while we talked international finance.

Here was no hayseed huckster, but a worldly man of wealth and taste.

And, despite grimacing and grunts from Volder, Dr. Robertson told me he could imagine tying his Chinese Internet firm (“The Yahoo of China,” he calls it) into the banking operation. Picking up Volder’s body shakes, Dr. Robertson added, “Though I’m not supposed to talk about Internet banking.” And he wasn’t supposed to mention China. His fellow evangelists are none too happy about his palling around with Zhu Rongi, the communist dictator who gleefully jails Christian ministers. Volder defends Dr. Robertson’s friendship with Zhu (and association with deposed Congo strongman Mobutu) on the grounds that “Pat would meet with the Devil if that is only way to help suffering people.” The fact that the political connections assisted in obtaining diamond (Congo) and Internet concessions (China) is secondary.

The enterprising minister planned to launch his bank through his accustomed routes: phone and mail solicitations. But had he hit the ‘Net, with or without the Chinese, this bank deal would have made Pat Robertson the biggest financial spider on the world wide web. Yet, his choosing the Bank of Scotland as his partner is surprising because, in New World Order, he singled out one institution in particular as the apotheosis of Satan’s plan for world domination: the Bank of Scotland.

In the fevered coils of NWO, Robertson explains that Scotsman William Paterson first proposed the creation of the satanic “central banks” – specifically the Bank of England and Bank of Scotland – who were manipulated by the Rothschilds to finance diamond mines in Africa which, in turn, funded the satanic secret English Round Table directed by Lord Milner, editor of the London Observer (Ah-Ha!) a century ago. Furthermore, the Scottish banker’s charter became the pattern for the US Federal Reserve Board, a diabolic agency created and nurtured by the US Senate Finance Committee whose chairman was the evil Money Trust’s dependable friend, Senator A. Willis Robertson – Pat Robertson’s father.

That’s right. Pat is the scion of the New World Order, who gave up its boundless privileges to denounce it.

Or did he?

I had done some research on the Antichrist. How would we recognize him?  How would the Great Deceiver win over God-fearing Christians? What name would he use? As I drove away from the chapel-TV studio-university-ministry-banking complex, I realized I’d forgotten to ask a key question. Why does the ex-Reverend go by the name “Pat” – not his Christian name, Marion? It struck me that “Pat Robertson” is an obvious anagram for the Devil’s agent, Paterson of the Scottish bank.

My silly thoughts piled higher, fuelled by staying up all night to finish New World Order. Suddenly, like Robertson, I too had a vision of an Invisible Cord that went from Lucifer to Illuminati to Scottish bankers to African diamonds to the Senate Finance Committee to Communist Dictators to the World Wide Web … Ridiculous, I know, but strangely, though I thought I’d turned off the radio, it continued to play that damned Rolling Stones song,

Pleased to meet you!
Hope you’ve guessed my name …  

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits and the book and documentary, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. His latest film is Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman. Read other articles by Greg, or visit Greg's website.