WASHINGTON — Carl R. (Spitz) Channell, a conservative political fund-raiser who became the first person convicted in the Iran-Contra scandal, has died.
Channell, 44, died Sunday in a Washington hospital of pneumonia related to injuries suffered in a car accident.
Former Rep. Dan Kuykendall, a friend of Channell who worked on pro-Contra causes during the time Channell also was involved, said Channell had been undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer and had recovered enough to do consulting work.
But about two months ago, as he was getting out of his car near his office in southeast Washington, he was struck by a car, according to Kuykendall, a Tennessee Republican who is now a Capitol Hill lobbyist.
Channell operated a motel in West Virginia until 1979 when he became a major national fund-raiser for conservative causes. He founded or controlled numerous conservative organizations, including two political action committees, a tax-exempt foundation and Western Goals, an organization co-founded by the John Birch Society.
In 1987, Channell pleaded guilty to using his nonprofit National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty to raise more than $2 million to arm the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
Two years later, he was sentenced to two years of probation for conspiring to defraud the government of taxes due on the money he and former White House aide Oliver North raised for the guerrillas.
Channell's confession was part of an agreement reached in exchange for his testimony against North, the fired National Security Council aide identified as the chief operator in covert U.S. arms sales to Iran and the diversion of profits to the Contras.