The Trilateral Commission was the brainchild of David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and grandson of John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller got the idea for the commission after reading Columbia University professor Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book Between Two Ages, which called for strengthened alliances between the world’s three dominant economic regions—North America, Western Europe, and Japan.
At Rockefeller’s request, Brzezinski formed the Trilateral Commission in 1973, its stated purpose being “to help think through the common challenges and leadership responsibilities of these democratic industrialized areas in the wider world.” The commission, essentially a glorified discussion group, was originally intended to survive for only three years—a triennia—but it has continually elected to renew its mission.
Since 1973 its membership has broadened and diversified: the Japan Group is now the Pacific Asian Group, Mexican members have been invited into the North American Group, and the European Group has expanded to accommodate an expanding European Union.
There are two conspiracy theories regarding the Trilateral Commission. The first theory says that the Trilateralists schemed to make enormous loans to Third World nations in the 1970s oil crisis and then conspired to strengthen the International Monetary Fund, which would offer additional credit as a way of guaranteeing their previous loans.
The second and more pervasive Trilateral conspiracy theory dictates that the commission is designing to take over the world through control of the U.S. presidency. This idea dates to the commission’s 1973 debut. Among its initial membership was Georgia governor Jimmy Carter—who was considering a bid for the presidency in 1976.
Rockefeller and Brzezinski were so impressed with Carter, the theory holds, that they began engineering Carter’s eventual victory through backroom deals and manipulation of media elites. Once elected, Carter appointed a number of Trilateralists to his administration, including Cyrus Vance as secretary of state and Brzezinski as national security advisor.
Conspiracy theorists, as upset as they were about Trilateral machinations in the 1976 elections, were stunned by the field of presidential candidates in 1980, which included two more commission members: Congressman John Anderson and former United Nations ambassador, CIA director, and Congressman George H. W. Bush.
Theorists were temporarily relieved when it became clear that Bush and Anderson were out of the running for the presidency, but recoiled when Republican nominee Ronald Reagan named Bush as his running mate and, when he succeeded Carter, appointed commission member Casper Weinberger as his secretary of defense. The Trilateral conspiracy theory reached its apogee in 1984 when Reagan hosted a White House reception for commission members.
Since that time, however, the Trilateralist conspiracy has lost some of its appeal, despite the fact that two more commission members have been elected president of the United States—George Bush, Sr., in 1988 and William Jefferson Clinton in 1992 and 1996.