Performers, Universities Rethinking Gifts from Qaddafi

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March 2, 2011; Source: Times Colonist | In 2007, Canadian singer/songwriter Nelly Furtado got $1 million for giving a 45-minute private concert in an Italian hotel for the family of Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Furtado could have kept the gig secret, but she revealed it on Twitter, announcing that she was going to give the $1 million tainted Qaddafi money to charity.

No word yet however, from Usher, 50 Cent, Beyonce, and Mariah Carey about whether they will follow suit and donate the money they received for similar gigs for the Qaddafis. But let's be fair. These entertainers are no worse than the politicians like British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin who traveled to Tripoli to make nice with the Libyan leader (and to open up investment opportunities for British and Canadian corporations) after Qaddafi’s public renunciation of nuclear and chemical weapons programs – he did not acknowledg his role in the Lockerbie plane crash.

They're also no worse than some charitable institutions that have benefited from Qaddafi charitable largesse, only now acknowledging the seamy side of the financial transactions. For example, the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation promised to give £1.5 million to the London School of Economics, and has apparently delivered £300,000 so far. Although LSE took a bit of criticism for the donation, it didn't phase the august institution, at least until the recent Libyan civil war. Now LSE is dedicating the Libyan money to scholarships for North African students.

Maybe part of LSE's problem was that the foundation was headed by one of the Colonel's sons, Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi, who happened to be attending LSE for his Ph.D., a degree now under investigation – again since the Libyan hostilities – due to significant evidence of thesis plagiarism.

On the board of the Qaddafi charity was well known American academic Benjamin Barber, who resigned from the foundation just recently. He and Harvard professor Michael Porter worked on millions of dollars worth of Libyan contracts through a Boston firm called Monitor, founded by Porter. Don't be too hard on Barber and Porter. Even UNESCO was accepting money from Saif's foundation.

Money makes people do strange things, like cozying up to the regime that brought down PanAm flight 103 and killed scores of American students. Maybe Usher, Beyonce, Blair, Martin, Barber, Porter, the London School of Economics, and UNESCO need to adopt gift acceptance policies. To make it simple, they could adopt Neil Young’s musical gift acceptance standard:

"Ain't singin' for Pepsi
Ain't singin' for Coke
I don't sing for nobody
Makes me look like a joke
This note's for you.
Ain't singin' for Miller
Don't sing for Bud
I won't sing for politicians
Ain't singin' for Spuds
This note's for you."

—Rick Cohen