WASHINGTON - The notoriety that Oliver North gained as a White House aide during the Iran-contra scandal has made him a millionaire, according to financial disclosure forms the U.S. Senate candidate filed last week.
North has received $2 million in personal income in the past 21 months, the federal records show, with most of the money coming from a book and lectures in which he tells his side of the arms-for-hostages deal that rocked the Reagan administration. The disclosure shows North took in $1.7 million in book royalties and speaking fees since Jan. 1, 1993, by far his largest source of income.
Although North repeatedly has described himself in campaign speeches as a small businessman who is familiar with the problems of running a company, the disclosure shows North has made no money recently from the bulletproof-vest company he operates. The filing disclosure estimates North's ownership share of Guardian Technologies International is worth more than $1 million but indicates North received no income from it during the period covered by the disclosure.
North, a Virginia Republican, was required to disclose his personal finances because he filed papers formally entering the U.S. Senate race last month. He is being opposed for the GOP nomination by James Miller, former Reagan administration budget director. The Senate seat is held by Democrat Charles Robb.
The disclosure does not indicate how much North received for individual speeches or from his best-selling autobiography, but it clearly indicates a sizable segment of the public remains hungry to hear North's account of the foreign policy debacle.
During the Iran-contra affair, North led efforts to win the release of U.S. hostages from Iran by selling arms to that country, in violation of the Reagan administration's stated policy. He later diverted profits from those sales to finance arms sales to the contra revolutionaries in Nicaragua.
North acknowledged deceiving Congress and was convicted of several charges, including accepting an illegal gratuity. His conviction was set aside when the federal courts ruled his immunized statements to a congressional panel might have influenced the outcome of his trial.
In recent years, however, North has become a hero to many conservatives.
North said he sees nothing wrong in profiting from his role in the Iran-contra scandal. "I earned it," he said. "Every one of those speeches was a night away from home."