Foreign Service Journal - November 2013 - page 11

Political Ambassadors:
20 and Counting
reported on Sept. 20 that Bruce
an, a veteran Goldman Sachs
& Co. executive and major fundraiser
for President Barack Obama, has been
as the next U.S. ambassador
to Canada. The nomination represents a
milestone for the White House: During the
first eight months of his second term, Pres.
Together, the nominees have raised
at least $13.8 million—and likely much
more—for Obama’s political committees
since 2007, according to research by the
And the total
may be considerably higher, since the
Obama campaign disclosed the data using
broad ranges—the largest of which was
simply “more than $500,000.”
Two men—attorney Kirk W.B. Wagar
and Matthew Barzun, who served as
Obama’s 2012 national finance chair-
man—each bundled at least $1.2 million
for Obama’s committees over the years,
records show, placing them atop the list
of most prolific embassy-bound fund-
raisers. Wagar is the U.S. ambassador to
Singapore, while Barzun now represents
America at the Court of St. James’s.
On Sept. 10 alone,
three bundlers for diplomatic positions:
hotel magnate George Tsunis for Norway,
private equity executive Anthony Luzzatto
Gardner for the European Union, and
attorney Michael A. Lawson for the United
Nations’ Council of the International Civil
Aviation Organization.
notes that “Obama’s overall rate
of appointing non-career ambassadors
has remained in line with those of previ-
ous administrations: about one in three,
according to the American Foreign Service
Association, the labor union and trade
association for career diplomats.” But the
Obama administration has so far not fol-
lowed the usual practice of increasing the
number of career appointments during a
president’s second term.
“Now is the time to end the spoils sys-
tem and the de facto ‘three-year rental’ of
appointment of non-career individuals,
however accomplished in their own field,
to lead America’s important diplomatic
missions abroad should be exceptional
and circumscribed.”
White House spokesmen Eric Schultz
says that Pres. Obama has nominated “tal-
ented people from all across the country
and all kinds of professional backgrounds”
to represent the United States abroad.
“Being a donor does not get you a job in
this administration, nor does it preclude
you from getting one.”
President Richard Nixon made an even
more forceful argument during his 1975
grand jury testimony, which was unsealed
in 2011 after a lawsuit filed by Public Citi-
zen on behalf of several historians.
“Some posts require wealthy people,”
Nixon said. “Big contributors in many
instances make better ambassadors,
particularly where American economic
interests are involved.” Conversely, Nixon
derided career diplomats as “intellectual
and emotional eunuchs, not worthy of
representing the United States.”
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