Bipartisan House group protests funding for Gadhafi foundations

A bipartisan group of House members is blasting the Obama administration for its plan to send $400,000 to foundations connected to the children of Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi.

The group of more than two dozen lawmakers, led by Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), said that the State Department proposal to provide funds to nonprofit groups led by Gadhafi's son and daughter sends the wrong message to families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing. Gadhafi last month celebrated the return to Libya of the only person convicted in the bombing, Abdelbaset al Megrahi, who was released by the Scottish government on grounds of compassion.

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"Just weeks after the Qaddafi family celebrated the return of a terrorist responsible for the murders of 189 Americans, the U.S. taxpayer should not be asked to reward them with $400,000," Kirk said in a statement.

Kirk and the group sent a letter to President Obama asking him to withdraw their proposal for funding for funding. The letter was signed by 18 Republicans and eight Democrats.

The White House did not respond to request for comment.

According to a State Department letter to Congress, $200,000 in U.S. aid would be used to train staff at the Gadhafi Development Foundation, which is seeking to build international relationships, increase transparency among other non-profit organizations and implement political and economic reforms. The foundation is led by Saif Gadhafi, the son of the Libyan leader.

Another $200,000 would go to promote women's economic opportunities. Kirk said that money would end up with a group led by Gadhafi's daughter, Aisha, who also works with the United Nations Development Program.

The State Department said it would send a total of $2.5 million out of its 2009 budget to support U.S. government agencies in Libya. The North African country had been on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror. The Bush administration restored diplomatic relations to Libya in 2005, after Gadhafi renounced his program to build weapons of mass destruction.

Kirk said he is using his privileges as a House appropriator to put a hold on the funding request. Kirk said he is considering an amendment to an appropriations bill that would block the State Department from giving out the funds if the Obama administration doesn't withdraw its proposal.

Kirk noted that the State Department told Congress of its plan to give money to the Libyan organizations on Wednesday, the same day Gadhafi gave a rambling speech at the United Nations in which he suggested Israel was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

The GOP House members signing Kirk's letter were: Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Tom Price (Ga.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Ginny Brown-Waite (Fla.), Joe Pitts (Pa.), Steve Austria (Ohio), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), Lee Terry (Neb.), Judy Biggert (Ill.), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Frank Wolf (Va.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) and Dan Burton (Ind.).

The Democrats who signed the letter were: Reps. Shelley Berkley (Nev.), Michael McMahon (N.Y.), John Adler (N.J.), Melissa Bean (Ill.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Ron Klein (Fla.) and Robert Wexler (Fla.).