February 7th, 2014
08:56 PM ET

Pay-to-Play ambassadors? Nominee for Amb. to Argentina never been to country

The Obama Administration facing tough questions about rewarding big donors with plush ambassadorships.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki was questioned by reporters as to why donors to President Obama's campaign were nominated for ambassadorships.

KARL: How much does it cost to become an ambassador, to be named ambassador, in the Obama administration? (Laughter.)
PSAKI: Jonathan Karl, always a TV question. We don't determine –
KARL: Well, it's serious because –
PSAKI: I'm not – I'm not – it is a serious question. We don't name ambassadors from the State Department. The White House names ambassadors, so I would certainly point you to my old colleagues across the street for that.

Her "old colleagues across the street" work at the White House. And these appointees are appointees chosen directly by the President of the United States.

White House spokesman Jay Carney didn't have a press conference on Friday to answer the questions, but the questions are serious, because some of the political picks to represent the United States overseas are questionable.

The President's nominee to be Ambassador to Argentina, Noah Bryson Mamet raised $500,000 for President Barack Obama and the Democrats, according to the New York Times.

He testified before Congress and got tripped up on what should have been an easy question: have you ever been to Argentina?

"I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there," Mamet told Congress. "I've traveled pretty extensively around the world, but I haven't yet had a chance."

This "pay-to-play"-style diplomacy isn't new.

But President Obama is picking more political appointees than any of his recent predecessors, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush.

Not all of Obama's political appointees end up being big donors, but many are.

Crony capitalism isn't a good word. Should crony diplomacy be, either?

Democratic Strategist Chris Kofinis and Republican Strategist Terry Holt are OutFront.

Filed under: Barack Obama • News • Politics
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