By Kevin Bogardus - 05/09/11 06:55 PM EDT
Documents released on Monday show that the government of Moammar Gadhafi tried to court the favor of prestigious academics and former U.S. officials by arranging visits to Libya.
The Monitor Group filed documents with the Justice Department on Friday that provided concrete details about the public-relations campaign that was conducted for Gadhafi’s government.
According to the documents, visitors to Libya included Richard Perle, the foreign-policy expert who advocated for the invasion of Iraq. Lord Anthony Giddens, a prominent figure in the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, and Philip Bobbitt, a U.S. author and academic who served in Democratic and Republican administrations, both agreed to visit Libya, although Bobbitt's trip never took place.
In addition, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist George Soros and the author Francis Fukuyama “expressed a willingness to visit Tripoli,” according to records filed with the Justice Department.
Other high-profile names included on a list of potential visitors to Libya were James Woolsey, the former CIA director; George Tenet, another ex-CIA chief; Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist; William Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor; and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), according to Justice records.
The Monitor Group has come under heavy criticism in the media for its consulting work with Libya in the wake of the violent crackdown on rebel forces in the country.
The group signed an agreement with the Libyan government in February of 2006, back when Libya was trying to reconcile with the West and shed its status as a pariah state. The agreement included $250,000 in monthly fees and expenses for a contract not to exceed $2.5 million in total payments.
In a letter sent July 3, 2006, to Abd Allah al-Sanusi, the Libyan intelligence chief, Mark Fuller, then the Monitor Group's CEO, and Rajeev Singh-Molares, then a Monitor executive, said Libya “has suffered from a deficit of positive public relations and adequate contact with a wide range of opinion leaders and contemporary thinkers.”
The Monitor executives said in the letter that they could help Libya with the deficit of good will.
“Our ability to introduce important, influential visitors to Libya’s advantage depends on our experience, prestige, networks and reputation for independence. We are deeply committed to helping you with this program,” the executives said in the letter.
Nevertheless, the letter stated, “Monitor is not a lobbying organization.”
Singh-Molares was designated to lead the day-to-day management of the Monitor team working on behalf of Libya and was to report personally to Fuller, according to the letter. The program was an ambitious one that included operations in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as outreach to well-known names in defense, foreign-policy and media circles.
Despite proclaiming that Monitor would not lobby, Justice records have firm executives saying that they would “coordinate with [Libya’s] existing lobbyists to ensure an integrated program” and that they would “compile and contact lobbying organizations that can help with [Libya’s] objectives.”
As part of its PR campaign, Monitor also worked to “provide operational support for publication of positive articles on Libya” in several media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Monitor worked for Libya from 2006 to 2008. At that time, Gadhafi and the West were in the midst of a rocky reconciliation after the dictator had abandoned his weapons of mass destruction program in 2003.
After questions were raised for its work on behalf of Gadhafi’s regime earlier this year, the firm hired law firm Covington & Burling to conduct an investigation into whether it should have registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The law firm found that it should have, and Monitor subsequently filed the necessary forms with Justice for Libya and another foreign government client, Jordan.
In October, Monitor began work for Jordan on an eight-week, $620,000 contract. The agreement was for Monitor to provide “management consulting services” to Jordan’s Washington embassy, according to records filed with Justice.
In a statement issued on Friday, Stephen Jennings, Monitor’s managing partner, said the firm had made “some mistakes” during its work for foreign governments.
“Monitor supported, during a period of genuine promise, the processes of reform and modernization in Libya. We made some mistakes along the way. While we stand by the majority of our work in and for that country, we have been resolute in our determination to find the facts, remedy errors and ensure that we learn from them,” Jennings said. “Monitor is committed to ensuring that we consistently live and manifest the values, ethics and standards that have characterized our firm for more than 25 years.”
Firms that attempt to influence U.S. government policy or U.S. public opinion on behalf of a foreign government, politician or political party are required to register under FARA. Not registering could lead to fines up to $10,000 or five years in prison.
Fuller, also a co-founder of Monitor, announced his resignation as CEO last week. Singh-Molares left the firm in December 2008 to join Alcatel-Lucent.
Gadhafi is now in the battle of his life as he faces a rebellion that has had air support from NATO. Several Western leaders, including President Obama, have said he must give up power.