After years of lobbying, the rock star helps rid the continent of more than $40 billion in debt.
For the past seven years Bono, who cofounded the advocacy group DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), has barn-stormed his way through Washington, D.C., and the European capitals campaigning to fight poverty in Africa. So on June 11, when leaders of the G8 group of top industrial nations agreed to erase more than $440 billion in African debt, Bono, 45, called the pact "one of the greatest moment in my life."
And one in which he played a key role. As a lobbyist, "he's got the celebrity that gets him in the door," says former Rep. John Kasich. "I laugh now because some congressmen wouldn't take a meeting with him until their kids found out." But, Kasich adds, Bono's dedication and expertise "made a huge impression on Capitol Hill." DATA cofounder Bobby Shriver points to Bono's relentless contact with both politicians and congressional staffers: "The real story is the numbers of phone calls and letters and follow-ups and trips...the amount of time he committed to these things." One early convert was hard-liner Sen. Jesse Helms, who went on to help push $550 million in debt relief through Congress. "We were discussing scriptural teaching about the poor," recalls Shriver, "and suffenly out of nowhere, Helms leaps to his feet and said he was going to give us a blessing and help us."
By some accounts, Bono's greatest asset is his ability to cajole reticent leaders behind the scenes. "He is fantastically influential," says a source familiar with his dealings with the British governments, which spearheaded the G8 deal. "He persuaders politicians that what they do is going to matter."
Forgive any grammatical errors.