By Will Banyan (Copyright © 23 March 2017)

The death of plutocrat David Rockefeller, at the very advanced age of 101 from congestive heart failure on the morning of the 20th of March, has been greeted with a predictable display of grief and adulation from the usual suspects. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, issued a statement praising Rockefeller as a “kind, good man” as well as a “consummate businessman, a great humanitarian and serious scholar.” Another former President, George H.W. Bush, mourned the passing of a “wonderful friend”, and “one of the most generous philanthropists.” Former New York mayor and fellow billionaire Mike Bloomberg considered himself “fortunate to call him a good friend…” Another New York billionaire, President Donald Trump, however, was strangely silent.

Recipients of Rockefeller’s largesse, both financial and reputational, have also publicly affirmed their grief. The president of Harvard University, Drew Faust, lamented the loss of “a visionary leader, an extraordinary philanthropist, and a devoted friend.”  “The world has lost a giant of a man,” claimed the Asia Society in its statement. According to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Rockefeller had been “a pillar of the institution for more than half of a century” and a “beloved and widely respected man for all those who knew him”, who would be “truly missed.” CFR President Richard N. Haass tweeted that it was a “Sad day” for the CFR “family” with the passing of a “wonderful man”:

Rockefeller University “deeply” mourned the loss of its “beloved friend and benefactor, Honorary Chairman, and Life Trustee” and praised Rockefeller’s “inspired leadership, extraordinary vision, and immense generosity.” The Synergos Institute (founded by his daughter Peggy Dulany) grieved at the loss of “a close friend and a source of great inspiration.” International House (co-founded by his father John D. Rockefeller Jr), noted the passing of its Honorary Trustee whose “legacy of leadership and support is deep and enduring…” “David Rockefeller led an extraordinary life – making an indelible, positive mark on our world as a leader in philanthropy, the arts, business and global affairs” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase (JP Morgan had merged with Rockefeller’s former bank, Chase Manhattan, in 2000 ). He was “one of the world’s most distinguished business statesmen as well as a leading philanthropist”, according to the Japan Society; and a “visionary philanthropist” in the brief statement from the Population Council about the loss of its “long-time supporter.”

Among those whose opinions are considered by the mainstream media to be unworthy of serious consideration, however, Rockefeller’s demise has been celebrated:

Figure 1: Some Examples of Popular Grief at David Rockefeller’s Passing

Author Daniel Estulin, of True Story of the Bilderberg Group (2005) fame, took the simpler route of giving thanks for the very fact of the plutocrat’s final exit:

He was “one of the most evil men to walk the earth”, wrote one pundit on Before Its News, before posting a video where he burned a cardboard box adorned with Rockefeller’s name. “David Rockefeller was a rat, bastard, globalist, world government, sonofabitch”, wrote one commentator on the website of a New York radio station; Rockefeller had “worked quietly behind the scenes, pulling the strings of politicians he ‘bought’ that have nearly wrecked the United States with a ‘free trade’ and globalism agenda.” Veteran conspiracy theorist Gary North damned Rockefeller as a “very nice evil man” who had “created the Trilateral Commission, which promotes globalism without meaningful national borders.” As a counterpoint to the mainstream media obituaries that whitewashed Rockefeller as merely a “philanthropist”, William F. Jasper, senior editor of the John Birch Society’s The New American magazine, offered a harsher appraisal:

David Rockefeller’s true legacy is one of aiding tyrants and tyranny, while simultaneously undermining Christian morality, our constitutional order of checks and balances, and our national sovereignty (The New American, Mar. 20, 2017).

Such charges are of course familiar to those steeped in the literature about the alleged “New World Order” conspiracy. The late Gary Allen, co-author of the million-selling anti-New World Order tract None Dare Call It Conspiracy (1971), best articulated these theories in his latter volume, The Rockefeller File (1976). He noted that David and his brother Nelson were “as leaders of the Rockefeller Clan…the nation’s undisputed economic kings” (p.8) and that David had met with 27 heads of state, proving that few could “match Rockefeller’s influence with men at the top” (p.28). In addition:

The keystone of the entire Establishment arch is the Council on Foreign  Relations (CFR). The leadership of the CFR is the equivalent to the brain of the octopus. David Rockefeller is chairman of the board of the CFR (p.52).

Then there was the small matter of the newly formed Trilateral Commission:

The founding meeting was called by David Rockefeller, the number one man in the Council on Foreign Relations and Chairman of the Board of Chase Manhattan Bank. When David asks some 200 leading bankers, businessmen, politicians, and labor leaders throughout the world to join him in forming a multi-national planning commission, you can be certain that the invitation has all of the force of a royal command (p.85).

Allen also implicated David Rockefeller in providing aid, trade and the transfer of technology to the Communists, promoting unilateral disarmament, cosying up the Soviets and the Red Chinese, and of course supporting the cause of “world government.”

None Dare Call It…

One of the curious paradoxes of the mainstream coverage of Rockefeller’s death is the how this conspiratorial account has been both derided and confirmed, sometimes in the same article. Journalist Todd Purdum (of Politico and Vanity Fair), for example, in his reminiscences about Rockefeller in the New York Times managed to denigrate conspiracy theories about the plutocrat after having just validated one of the key reasons the theories targeting David Rockefeller emerged in the first place:

For decades, [Rockefeller] had as much global influence as the secretaries of state and Treasury combined. He was greeted in foreign capitals with the pomp befitting a president.

And yet, according to Todd, the plutocrat inexplicably: “inspired fevered international conspiracy theories with his work for the Trilateral Commission.”

The Reuters obituary managed the same feat, closely juxtaposing commentary on Rockefeller’s ability to create transnational networks of business and government, and yet it failed to draw the connection to the conspiracy theories about him:

During his time as head of Chase from 1969 to 1981, Rockefeller forged such a network of close relationships with governments and multinational corporations that observers said the bank had its own foreign policy.

Instead the conspiratorial accounts were treated as though the sole cause was some irrational thinking arising from the formation of the Trilateral Commission:

The Trilateral Commission, a group Rockefeller founded in 1973 to foster relations between North America, Japan and Western Europe, came to be a regular target of the far-right and conspiracy theorists who said it was trying to create a one-world government.

Bloomberg’s obituary also noted that Rockefeller had been a “confidant of world leaders, from Deng Xiaoping in China to Nelson Mandela in South Africa, from the shah of Iran to Henry Kissinger.” But it too, attributed the targeting of Rockefeller by “conspiracy theorists” solely to “his membership in secretive international policy groups such as the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group.”

There have been some exceptions. Mark Feeney, for example, writing in the Boston Globe (Mar. 20, 2017), seemed to recognise that the unwelcome attention of conspiracy theorists did not come out of the blue, but was largely in response to David Rockefeller’s perceived power and objectives. Feeney noted from the outset that Rockefeller’s reputation for power was largely a reflection of his “perhaps-unrivaled range of business relationships, institutional affiliations, and personal connections, as well as membership in one of the nation’s best-known families…” This had earned David Rockefeller “the unofficial title [of] ‘chairman of the American establishment’…”

Feeney also noted that one of Rockefeller’s nephews, former US Senator Jay Rockefeller had once called him “probably the most powerful man in America.” A title that Rockefeller had “scoffed at”, and yet:

the perception that he presided over the intersection of financial and political influence in this country, if not the world, made him a favorite target of conspiracy theorists at both ends of the political spectrum.

Moreover, Rockefeller’s “vigorous and longstanding advocacy of globalization” had ultimately “added fuel to the fire.”

In fact, the various obituaries and tributes provide plenty of evidence in support of the basic tenets of otherwise derided “conspiracy” theories about the plutocrat. Two in particular stand out and are repeatedly reaffirmed: (1) that despite not holding any official positions, he possessed unusual access and influence at the highest levels of national power; and (2) he was a critical advocate and supporter of economic integration, both regionally and globally through free trade and neo-liberalism.

The Quiet Statesman: According to the long obituary in the New York Times (Mar. 20, 2017) David Rockefeller “wielded vast influence around the world…as he spread the gospel of American capitalism.” In fact:

His stature was greater than any corporate title might convey, however. His influence was felt in Washington and foreign capitals, in the corridors of New York City government, art museums, great universities and public schools.


As a peripatetic advocate of the economic interests of the United States and of his own bank, he was a force in global financial affairs and in his country’s foreign policy. He was received in foreign capitals with the honors accorded a chief of state.

The London Times (Mar. 21, 2017) hailed him as New York’s “uncrowned king” and as the “last leader of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment”, who had “exerted unparalleled influence in New York, Washington and around the world.” Rockefeller was a “global-trotting financial diplomat”, according to the Washington Post (Mar. 20, 2017), who had twice declined an offer from President Nixon to become Secretary of the Treasury “because he felt his position at Chase gave him more influence.” He was on “intimate terms with many world leaders”, using his “contacts at the highest levels of government” to bring one of those leaders, the Shah of Iran, to the US for medical treatment.

The Asia Society described him as a “quiet yet commanding global figure” who for “decades…had a profound impact on international relations.” The Financial Times (Mar. 21, 2017) obituary argued it was David, rather than his politician brother Nelson, who “left the deepest impression in business and public life.” This was because:

In the 1960s and 1970s, David Rockefeller came to be seen by many as the leading emissary for western capitalism. In the developing world and behind the iron curtain, he was habitually greeted as though he himself were a head of state. The name helped, but the reception also reflected the incessant international trips and meetings with world leaders that gave him the aura of an international statesman.

Rockefeller was “one of the world’s most important financiers”, according to Quartz, who was “said to have the ear of every US president since Dwight Eisenhower.” Proof of his influence was offered by his presidential mourners. Former President Clinton confirmed that Rockefeller’s Council for the Americas organization had been “instrumental in my administration’s efforts to alleviate the financial crisis in Latin America and boost trade in the Americas and the Caribbean.” Former President George H. W. Bush was more effusive:

David was also very active in national and international affairs and his connections and keen aptitude for issues made him a valuable advisor to Presidents of both parties – yours truly certainly included.

Finally, The Blaze offered this account of his global power:

Rockefeller’s influence as a businessman and philanthropist was visible around the world. He is said to have met with over 200 rulers in more than 100 countries and was often treated as if he himself were a dignitary of great political importance.

The Globalist: David Rockefeller was a “fierce advocate for international cooperation”, the Council on Foreign Relations said in its statement. The obituary in the Wall Street Journal (Mar. 20, 2017) noted that he had “few peers as an architect of the world economy in which corporations transcend national boundaries.” The statement from the Americas Society/Council for the Americas (AS/COA), two organizations Rockefeller had founded in the 1960s with the aim of promoting regional integration of the Americas, hailed him as a:

A true statesman, David Rockefeller promoted democracy, open markets, and the rule of law in the Western Hemisphere and beyond, leaving behind a legacy that will long outlive him.

According to the AS/COA Chairman and CEO, Susan Segal, Rockefeller was “an internationalist whose vision for a more interconnected world led him to inspire deepened understanding and integration across borders and cultures.” A former colleague from Chase, quoted by the Financial Times, described David as “an internationalist first and an international banker second.”

The Tide of History…

Clearly, David Rockefeller was both uniquely powerful and a committed internationalist; however, the complete story of the plutocrat’s aims and objectives, and his various machinations has yet to be written. To date the collected writings about his life comprise his own Memoirs (2002), William Hoffman’s long forgotten David: A Report on a Rockefeller (1970) and parts of Peter Collier and David Horowitz’s The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (1976). Back in 2003 in the pages of the antipodean publication, Nexus, I made my own attempt to filling the gap with a six part series on “Rockefeller Internationalism”, which aimed to examine in detail the globalist ideology of the Rockefeller family. Parts three and four of that series were devoted to David Rockefeller, by far the most powerful and influential of the Rockefellers at that time. In 2006 I combined these parts, with part five about the Trilateral Commission, into a much longer paper titled “The Proud Internationalist”, that can still be found on the web.

Most of my research was based on articles and speeches by or about David Rockefeller that I had found in libraries that had otherwise been ignored in the few other accounts about him. This served to shed more light on his ideas, confirming in considerable detail his internationalist inclinations, but not necessarily his political influence. In recent years, though, a trove of mostly government documentation has emerged that exposes in remarkable detail the extent of Rockefeller’s political contacts and connections. This ranges from presidential daily diaries that provide evidence of his telephone and face-to-face contacts with US presidents from Kennedy to Clinton; transcripts of his telephone conversations with Henry Kissinger; records of his meetings with State Department officials; and hundreds of diplomatic telegrams from the 1970s about his trips around the world.

This new expanded body of evidence gives us more insights into David Rockefeller’s political connections, one that goes beyond the somewhat restrained acknowledgements of his power in the mainstream obituaries. In particular, it serves to further validate the otherwise vilified conspiracist interpretation of David Rockefeller: that far from being a kindly philanthropist, he was a plutocrat who leveraged his wealth and his family name to build networks of influence throughout governments the world over, in service of his higher objective of “a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world….” (Memoirs, p.405). This is the David Rockefeller, the long-time CFR and Bilderberg member and Trilateral Commission founder, who: was an early advocate for what became NAFTA; seriously considered a “world central bank” in the 1960s; held the “interdependence of mankind” as one of the central beliefs of his ideal society (Omni, April 1988, p.96); was a key force behind the failed attempts to economically integrate all of the Americas; and, subscribed to the Cobdenite belief that the “expansion of trade” and “emergence of a genuine world economy” represented “our best prospects for maintaining peace among nations” (Atlantic Community Quarterly, April 1975, pp.312-313).

At present it would seem to be a truism that the tide of history has turned against David Rockefeller’s vision. Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump would appear to be a suitable anti-obituary in itself to the passing of this last of the old-style internationalists. But he might also have been reassured by the findings of various polls that popular support for globalization still remains strong, particularly amongst the younger generations. Rockefeller may now be gone, but his vision lives on and there are new generations of plutocrats moving to the fore, battling to reshape the world; some claim the “tide of globalization is going out”, while others are still determined to build a “global community.”

His legacy may be under threat, but what David Rockefeller has helped to create – both in terms of elite networks and the structures of international economic integration – may prove much harder to dismantle than his opponents assume…

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