Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Ollie North – Boy Scout

Having Oliver North held up as a role model to the Boy Scouts is roughly akin to having Ken Lay held up as a role model to MBA students. But he sure can raise money for them.

Four years ago, the Boy Scouts lost much of their local financial support by upholding a nationwide ban against gay Scouts. The avowedly apolitical group found itself widely shunned by liberals and embraced by conservatives.

Now, regrouping with the largest single fund-raising event in its history, the Scouts’ South Florida Council is turning to Oliver North.

The keynote speaker planned for Thursday’s fundraiser at the Signature Grand in Davie is a polarizing figure: retired Marine lieutenant colonel, decorated war hero, right-leaning radio host and central figure in the Iran contra arms-for-hostages scandal of the 1980s.

To some Democrats and veterans of the gay-rights battle, this is a fresh outrage. But Scout leaders say they chose North for his drawing power, not his politics. They’re a long way toward raising $600,000 Thursday night. Five hundred donors have already pledged $150 a plate and up.

”The Boy Scouts of America does not have a political agenda,” said Norman Silber, president of the South Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

No political agenda? Right. Pull the other one; it jingles.