Lobbying for Libya’s Mad Dog
Does the government care if American firms violated American law?
April 4, 2011 - 8:17 am
The irony of American “rapprochement” with a tyrant is that what was recently considered egregiously immoral is suddenly deemed proper and imperative — obvious, even. So it seems to be in the case of Muammar Gaddafi and U.S. firms between 2004 and 2011. With Saddam Hussein facing the gallows, Gaddafi “opened” Libya up to the West. He handed over the nuclear material he was hiding in some turkey farm and promised to play nice. As a result, a slew of lobbyists began to ink deals that would present the Libyan dictatorship in a new light.
The bizarre part is that they may have done so illegally. The more bizarre part is that the U.S. government was doing it too.
According to documents found by the Libyan opposition, the Monitor Group, a global consulting firm with 30 worldwide offices, worked for Gaddafi without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The Monitor Group does not deny the $3 million contract. But they have said that since they were not lobbying for Gaddafi, FARA does not apply.
Well, what does FARA say? It defines lobbying as “any activity that the person engaging in believes will, or that the person intends to, in any way influence any agency or official of the Government of the United States [...] with reference to formulating, adopting, or changing the domestic or foreign policies of the United States.”
Sounds reasonable. But in a 2007 memo, the Monitor Group defined their Libya strategy as “introducing to Libya important international figures that will influence other nations’ policies towards the country.” They also sought to promote “the idea to an international policy elite that there is more to Gaddafi than historically-biased perceptions.” More to Gaddafi than those jheri curls, eh? Like what — a sensitive side? I’m not a lawyer, but this sounds an awful lot like “any activity” that in “any way” influences “any agency or official” toward “changing [the] policies of the United States.”
But let’s not pick on the Monitor Group. Last month, PJ Media’s Richard Pollock not only had the scoop on the Monitor Group but the Livingston Group as well. That’s the Washington, D.C.-based firm run by former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA). Livingston, once speaker of the House-elect, arranged for Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali to hold private meetings with nearly half of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. As Pollock says, “The Livingston campaign for Gaddafi […] illustrates how former members of Congress on both sides of the aisle enrich themselves on behalf of dictatorships.”