In an article in this morning's New York Times, the publication examines the relationship that American lobbying organizations have had with the government of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. The Times cites a slew of big-wig law and media relations firms that have benefitted from their work with the Qaddafi regime, work that typically involved PR efforts to boost the country's image worldwide. Missing from the list of dubious business partners, though, are consultancies. Surely they wanted a piece of the action too! Enter: Monitor Group.
The Huffington Post reports this week that Monitor Group, one of the world's more prestigious strategy consulting firms, was paid a startling $250,000 per month by the Libyan government to "Enhance the Profile of Libya and Muammar Qaddafi" and even dictate aspects of the country's economic policy. The report, which also notes the existence of a $2.5 million open expense account for Monitor consultants, stems from a recently uncovered series of memos between Monitor and the Libyan government that were leaked by members of the Libyan opposition.
The engagement started in 2006. That summer, a memo from Monitor to the Libyan state laid out in detail a strategy to improve public opinion of the North African country. A fundamental aspect of that strategy was, firstly, the identification of "critical figures...among policy makers, government, media, think tanks, academics, journalists, private sector companies and lobby groups" that could be deployed to Libya's benefit. In the years that followed, Monitor arranged for American diplomats, academics and other well-connected individuals to visit Libya, meet Qaddafi and his sons, and return home touting a message of a positive Libya.
A tale of two Qaddafis.
A 2007 memo details the impact that these international figures made in the States: "Many of the visitors brought to Libya have individually briefed all levels of the United States government including specifically the President, Vice President, Heads of National Security and Intelligence as well as the Secretary of State," the memo reads.
The Monitor strategy for Libya didn't end there. Monitor consultants were themselves actively promoting a positive image of Libya, facilitating the "publication of positive articles on Libya" (the likes of which graced the pages of Newsweek, the Financial Times and NPR) and even pitching their client at the highest levels of American government. "At a critical time when the United States was debating its recognition of Libya, Monitor met with senior officials in the United States government to share its perspective on Libya," says another leaked memo.
Today, it's exceedingly clear that the trumped-up façade presented by the Monitor Group was anything but an accurate picture of life on the ground in Libya. There are, of course, the ethical questions: was Monitor Group simply focusing on the positives, or was it all a lie? Just how willing was the firm to turn a blind eye to the painful Libyan reality: a schizophrenic despot ruling an economically- and socially-depressed people?
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