From the NYTimes:
Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Self-Proclaimed Messiah Who Built Religious Movement, Dies at 92
… Mr. Moon courted world leaders, financed newspapers and founded numerous innocuously named civic organizations. To his critics, he pursued those activities mainly to lend legitimacy to his movement, known as the Unification Church, although his methods were sometimes questionable. In 2004, for example, he had himself crowned “humanity’s savior” in front of astonished members of Congress at a Capitol Hill luncheon…
Building a business empire in South Korea and Japan, Mr. Moon used his commercial interests to support nonprofit ventures, then kept control of them by placing key insiders within their hierarchies. He avidly backed right-wing causes, turning The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles.
An ardent anti-Communist who had been imprisoned by the Communist authorities in northern Korea in the 1940s, he saw the United States as the world’s salvation. But in the late 1990s, after financial losses, defections and stagnant growth in the church’s membership, he turned on America, branding it a repository of immorality — “Satan’s harvest” — and repositioned his movement as a crusade for moral values…
Mr. Moon struggled against bad publicity. He was sent to prison on tax evasion charges and accused of influence-buying and of maintaining ties to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency. He denied both allegations. In the late 1970s he was caught up in a Congressional investigation into attempts by South Korea to influence American policy. There were battles with local officials over zoning for church buildings and tax-exempt status.
As his church grew more prominent in the 1970s and ’80s, it became embroiled in lawsuits over soliciting funds, acquiring property and recruiting followers….
In the United States, Mr. Moon had interests in commercial fishing, jewelry, fur products, construction and real estate. He bought many properties in the New York area, including the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan and the Manhattan Center nearby.
At one time or another he controlled newspapers including Noticias del Mundo and The New York City Tribune; four publications in South Korea; a newspaper in Japan, The Sekai Nippo; The Middle East Times in Greece; Tiempos del Mundo in Argentina; and Últimas Noticias in Uruguay. In 2000, a church affiliate bought what was left of United Press International.
The extent of his holdings was somewhat of a mystery, but one figure gives a clue: Mr. Moon acknowledged that in the two decades since the founding of The Washington Times in 1982, he pumped in more than $1 billion in subsidies to keep it going….
I am not qualified to judge whether Reverend Moon was a good person and/or sincere in his religious beliefs, but his influence on American politics has been an unmixed evil. When Moon was indicted for tax evasion in 1981, he said “I would not be standing here today if my skin were white and my religion were Presbyterian…I am here today only because my skin is yellow and my religion is Unification Church.” That may well be true, but he was still a malign influence. Not only did the billions of dollars he extracted from his followers support the nascent post-Watergate “redesign” of the Republican Party, but his much-ballyhooed success at mixing religious showmanship and old-fashioned political graft at the highest levels has been an ongoing inspiration to other “new religions” like Scientology, to mainstream would-be “spirtual” powerbrokers like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren, and to old-fashioned all-American political grifters like Ralph Reed, Tom DeLay, and Mike Huckabee. Whatever happens in the upcoming succession battles within the Unification Church, and however much his devoted global followers will miss him, America is just a little better off now that Moon’s no longer going to be personally meddling in politics.