February 28th, 2013
08:35 PM ET

Big donors to president tapped for ambassadorships

If you are a big donor, then get ready to be awarded with one of the cushiest jobs the President of the United States can offer - a coveted ambassadorship.

CNN's Jessica Yellin reports that some of the new ambassadors the president is likely to name are high-profile donors to President Obama's election campaign.

  • Marc Lasry

Founder of Avenue Capital Group
Raised nearly a million dollars for Pres. Obama's 2012 presidential campaign
Location: Paris

  • Matthew Barzun

Obama campaign finance chair
Raised nearly a million dollars for Pres. Obama's 2012 presidential campaign
Location: London

  • Patrick Gaspard

Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee
Location: South Africa

  • Caroline Kennedy

Supported the president in 2008 and co-chair his re-election bid
Location: Tokyo or Toronto

While the state department website calls for experience in the United States Foreign Service to be qualified for the position, recent administrations have been setting up those who gave sizeable financial contributions with comfortable ambassador jobs in exotic South Pacific islands or quiet European countries.

According to the American Foreign Service Association, 30.1 -percent of ambassadorial appointees chosen by President Obama were political appointees. During George W. Bushs’ presidency he made 453 total appointments with 30.02-percent of them being political.  President Obama has made a total of 243 appointments so far.

This practice is very common among presidencies, and in fact George H. W. Bush was one of the most notorious for rewarding campaign contributors with a job.  During his presidency, 31.3% of his 214 appointees were political.

George W. Bush nominated David Wilkins as ambassador to Canada in 2005. He donated over $200,000 to the Bush campaign, and had only been to Canada once, thirty years before his nomination.

In 2009, Obama nominated Louis Susman, a vice chairman of Citigroup corporate and investment banking, and also a major Democratic fundraiser.

However Obama, who ran on the platform of change and government accountability, vowed this week to create more transparency from his administration.

So the question remains: Has U.S. ambassadorship turned into a ‘pay to play’ business?

OutFront tonight: Former Chief of Staff for President George W. Bush Andy Card and CNN Contributor Reihan Salam.

Filed under: Politics
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