This article appeared in Mother Jones in April 1981.
Ask a radical right-winger, "Who's behind the Trilatercal Commission?" Nine out of ten will tell you, "David Rockefeller." Now ask who's behind The Spotlight, the weekly tabloid in which rightists read about the Trilateral Commission. Ninety-nine out of a hundred won't know.
Willis Allison Carto's network is probably more secretive than the Trilateral Commission could ever hope to be. But with a radio show aired on 470 stations daily, a brand new television commentary series seen in 37 cities and a newspaper circulation approaching 340,000, Carto is a formidable force within the Right.
Former Senator Sam Ervin has commended Carto's Liberty Lobby for being "faithful to the concept of the Constitution." Idaho Representative George Hansen says he's "pleased to receiveve The Spotlight and hope all my colleagues have access to it." Carto's propaganda machine is being taken seriously by a growing number of rightists. Here's a thumbnail rundown of his empire and the history of his activities:
Liberty Lobby: This non-profit, ultra-conservative pressure group is the core of Carto's industry, estimated to be a multimillion-dollar operation. Founded by Carto in 1956, the group reached a financial turning point in 1964 with the publication of a character assassination of Lyndon Johnson.
In April 1969, columnist Drew Pearson wrote that the Liberty Lobby was a "neo-Nazi group" and published a letter written by Carto that read, in part: "Hitler's defeat was the defeat of Europe. And America." Furious, Carto went to court but was unsuccessful in his attempt to stop Pearson from writing about Liberty Lobby.
This past June, Robert Bartell became chairman of Liberty Lobby's Board of Policy. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B'nai B'rith, Bartell's history includes having presided over a hush-hush 1970 Liberty Lobby fundraiser for a project--"Operation Survival"--to finance a right-wing military dictatorship for the U.S. Barlett denies the charge, saying that the fundraiser was to help prevent the U.S. climate from deteriorating into further "chaos." According to the ADL, which will not reveal its sources but apparently planted an informant in Operation Survival, Bartell asked for help in raising $400,000 yearly from the 50 influential right-wingers in attendance.
The Spotlight: This weekly tabloid is a radically right-wing version of the National Enquirer: "Soviet Spy in White House"; "Rockefeller Named Dope Overlord"; "The Diary of Anne Frank is a fraud." News stories "expose" the conspiracy being perpetrated against hard-working, blue-collar citizens by "Jew-Zionist" international bankers and communists.
Affiliated Fronts: Liberty Lobby front groups can sometimes be identified by their address: 300 Independence Avenue SE, Washington DC or 132 Third Street, a side entrance to Carto's building.
Carto's West Coast operations revolve mainly around The Noontide Press. He also has been affiliated with the once-respected American Mercury magazine and the Institute for Historical Review, an organization designed to promote the belief that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Willis Allison Carto, himself: Carto does not speak in public, refuses to be interviewed and keeps an unlisted telephone number. His name does not even appear on the masthead of The Spotlight.
He directs his operations from a plush penthouse apartment in Torrance, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. According to Spotlight's managing editor, Jim Tucker, Carto conducts Liberty Lobby business by way of conference calls from a public telephone. His occasional surprise appearances at the Liberty Building in Washington are geared to catch employees off-guard. One former employee says the staff fears Carto's stormy temperament, and Robert Bartell confirms that polygraph tests are not uncommon for new employees.