Carl R. (Spitz) Channell, the multimillion-dollar fund-raiser who now faces bankruptcy and sentencing in the Iran-contra case, says he wants to get past his troubles so he can go back to helping the Nicaraguan rebels.
"I want to help the freedom fighters any way I can," Channell told The Associated Press in his first interview since he came under investigation in the Iran-contra affair last year. "I have dedicated my life to supporting truly democratic freedom movements."
And despite the problems that grew out of his involvement with Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, then a National Security Council aide, and the private contra aid effort, Channell said he is ready to take up the cause again.
Channell is awaiting sentencing for a federal crime, his public relations firm has sought protection under U.S. bankruptcy laws, his once-thriving foundation has been stripped of its tax-exempt status, his political action committees are dormant and his network of wealthy donors is no longer sending money.
"I haven't had a chance to do any work for seven months," he said, adding that most of his time has been spent with the independent counsel's Iran-contra investigation, in which he is cooperating as part of his guilty plea on a tax fraud count. He declined to discuss matters related to his plea, his dealings with North or the ongoing investigation.
But the 42-year-old conservative said he wanted to begin telling his story "because there are so many lies out there about me."
For instance, he said, investigators have questioned him intensively but have found no evidence of the report that catapulted him into the public eye last December -- an article in the Lowell Sun of Massachussetts that cited unnamed sources as saying Iran arms-sale profits went to Channell's groups for political purposes.
"Ollie North's office is one of the most splendidly compartmentalized setups I've ever seen in my life. I was there off and on for a full year and never heard any staff member . . . or Ollie talk about Iran," Channell said, adding he thought "nobody in their right mind" would sell weapons to the Iranians.
And he said he did not start his fund-raising operation at North's instigation. He had it set up by the time he met North in the spring of 1985 and later began working with the then-White House aide to get private money to the contras during the congressional ban on U.S. military aid.
Channell also denied offering contributors any "quid pro quo" meetings with President Reagan, although one testified that Channell said he could meet Reagan if he gave $300,000.
Channell acknowledged he did arrange through his associate, former Reagan aide David Fischer, for a handful of his top donors, including $2 million contributor Ellen Garwood of Texas, to be ushered into the White House to receive Reagan's brief thanks.