A look back at Gaddafi’s lobbying as his regime falls


Libyan rebel forces now hold most of Tripoli. Gaddafi’s sons have been captured but the eccentric Libyan dictator remains elusive.

Gaddafi’s political craftsmanship carried him through 42 years. The reign of Gaddafi “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution” was bolstered first by the fear of the international community, then its support, achieved by the Libyan dictator’s skillful pirouette from flouting international norms to making concessions to come back into the international fold. That he did so with the aid of Western lobbyists, intellectuals and former heads of state is less well known.

While the public recalls Gaddafi for Libya’s role in the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 250 people, for his flamboyant costumes and bizarre statements, and dismantling his weapons of mass destruction program, his use of organizations like the Livingston Group and the latter’s client, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, is less well known.

Consider the United Nations. The U.N.’s close relations with Gaddafi have instigated criticism that the UN was enabling the regime. Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, who has been captured by the rebel forces and has a warrant outstanding at the Iwas the president of the Gaddafi Charity that once promoted the idea that Libya was concerned about human rights for its citizens and others.

One of the ways that Libya ingratiated itself with the humanitarian operations of the U.N. was through the charity. In 2008, the Gaddafi Foundation entered to a with the U.N. department of public information in order to, “diversify the geographical representation of the non-governmental organizations.”

The U.N. delayed a report that waspraising Libya’s Human Rights record. The U.N. Security Council has since affirmed a resolution  “condemning the gross and systematic violation of human rights” in Libya, cutting of ties with the Gaddafi Charity.

The Gaddafi Foundation has been an overt lever of Libyan foreign policy.  It posted an interview by a Russian journalist about Russian- Libyan relations. Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi stated on the charity website, which is currently not online, “We have good relations with the West and Russia. However Libya chose Russia for a strategic partner; of course, Russia is a strategic partner, we cannot compare it to any other state in terms of proximity.” Statements like these, show the way the charity, legitimized buy the U.N., enhanced the prestige if Libya and acted as an instrument of a corrupt state.

The foundation’s website spoke of reforms to come in the new Libya. It published a 2005 interview with  Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi stating, “[W]e will open the old files of past violations, the files of the Revolutionary courts and the People's Court, and the people will be compensated. All these files will be opened; this means facts on the ground, and not merely talks on the media.” Since rebels took over the city of Benghazi, the regime abandoned its reformist language, adopting a sinister tone. The foundation’s president said, on state TV, as reported by the Guardian, "Our army will be in Libya, and Muammar Gaddafi will be in it until the last moment … We will eradicate them all."

Gaddafi’s daughter, a defense lawyer for Saddam Hussein, held a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador title but they have revoked her status since the Libyan crackdown.

An interesting cast of characters ran the foundation. The Council of Trustees for the organization included Chung-Hwan Keak, a founder of the Church that in 2004 held a coronation ceremony in the capitol for its Reverend Sun Myung Moon, owner of the Washington Times newspaper.

Another former board member, Nobel Prize winner Sir Richard Roberts, found himself surrounded by controversy.  He resigned from the prestigious London School of Economics in March after people found out that he accepted 1.5 million pounds from the Gaddafi Charity without transparency or approval.

The board also featured the former Prime Minister of Italy, Giulio Andreotti. His tenure was riddled with scandals and he was nicknamed “The Black Pope.” In 2003, he was acquitted of murder charges in the 1979 death of a journalist that was investigating him.

George Papandreou, the embattled Prime Minister of Greece also served on the board of the Gaddafi Charity. Director Dr. Youssef Sawani, who has appeared in various FARA filings resigned his post along with Benjamin Barber. Professor Hernando DeSoto resigned in February.

The Livingston Group, which lobbied for Gaddafi’s regime and his foundation in the United States, features a host of former government officials, including former members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. On behalf of their clients, Livingston Group lobbyists met with members of Congress and their staff, the State Department and heads of Washington think tanks. The Monitor Group, which with the Justice Department as a foreign agent until the Sunlight Foundation reported on their activities on behalf of the Libyan regime, provided several services for Gaddafi’s regime, including garnering positive media mentions of the country.

The rebels also have their own representation in Washington, including for a time former Gaddafi’s ambassador in Washington, who quit his job and began representing the interests of the Transitional National Council of Libya. He registered as a foreign agent because at that time, Washington had yet to recognize the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya.