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Is Bono Washington's Best Lobbyist? How U2 Frontman Plays the Game

Bono
U2 lead singer Bono performs the group's song "Beautiful Day" at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 21, 2001. Reuters

Whenever U2 and the band’s frontman, Bono, perform in Washington, D.C., it’s as much about lobbying on behalf of the world’s poor as it is about the music. In the past, Bono has used his stadium stage to promote ONE, the anti-poverty group he co-founded, and to praise politicians of all parties who have worked on behalf of his causes. The singer’s bipartisanship is legendary: In the past he’s praised George W. Bush for dramatically increasing funding to prevent HIV in Africa and Bill Clinton for the same. He’s used the microphone to laud lesser-known officials like the late Sandy Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, for promoting peace in his native Ireland. 

Related: In memory of Michael Elliott, former Newsweek editor and humanitarian

Tuesday night’s show at FedExField just outside D.C. was no exception. Bono offered prayers and goodwill for House Whip Steve Scalise, who was injured during last week’s shooting spree at a congressional baseball practice in northern Virginia. The Louisiana congressman remains in serious condition after a bullet entered his hip. 

"You've been through some troubling days here with the shooting in Alexandria," Bono said at an earlier show. "We are so grateful that Congressman Scalise and his comrades made it through. So grateful. We hold them up, as love holds us all up." 

"Thanks Bono & @U2," read a tweet on Scalise's page that appeared on Tuesday, which included the hashtag "#TeamScalise." 

Bono used the show at the Hyattsville, Maryland, stadium to praise House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as well as Republican Representative Kay Granger for “insisting, resisting and persisting” on women’s issues, and he touted Gayle Smith, the new CEO of the One campaign. Smith replaced Michael Elliott, the late Newsweek editor and reporter. 

Bono’s activism traces back to “the troubles” in Ireland in the 1980s and to the millennium, when he campaigned for global debt relief. His two organizations, ONE and Red, have raised millions of dollars to combat global poverty. Today, ONE has over 8 million members. 

The organizations have raised and partnered with others to funnel billions of dollars to help the poor and sick. They now face a major challenge from the Trump administration, which has proposed slashing American foreign aid dramatically.

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