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October 14, 2004 10:07 AM   Subscribe

Campaign Contributions and U.S. Ambassadors
In 1972 President Nixon appointed thirteen noncareer ambassadors to Western European countries; eight of them had contributed at least $50,000 to his reelection campaign...(-Source, scroll to item 2.)
In 1980 a federal law was created to combat this, stating that ambassadors must "possess clearly demonstrated competence, including, to the maximum extent practicable, a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve, and knowledge and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions and the interest of that country and its people. … Contributions to political campaigns should not be a factor in the appointment."
Currently 1/4 to 1/3 of U.S. Ambassadors are noncareer appointees, not experienced diplomats, causing criticism since the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Critics point out that neither the Pentagon, the CIA nor any other U.S. government agency must shoulder the burden of a significant cadre of "nonprofessionals" encumbering senior field positions. (-Source.)

HERE is the current tally of Embassy Row and their campaign contributions, including Clark Randt, Jr, former Geo W Yale fraternity brother who defended Bush against drug allegations during Bush's last campaign. "Rangers" and "Pioneers" abound. Mauritius is sunny, tropical, and expensive. (Inspired by this AskMe question.)
posted by Shane (14 comments total)

 
Heh. Thanks, Shane. Much appreciated.

The current example from my neck of the woods here. He lives here. [ironically, or tragically, or both, it was also the residence of the German #1 during the occupation... - but then again, he did make his way in real estate. The ambassador, I mean.]
posted by AwkwardPause at 10:28 AM on October 14, 2004


Nice house, AwkwardPause. Does he speak Danish? ;-)
Aw, I guess you all speak English anyway.

But does (Mississippi venture capitalist, $166,850 to the GOP) John Palmer speak Potruguese?

I hope Sue Cobb at least likes reggae. That much should be required. She paid heavily for Jamaica, just as her husband paid for Iceland when he was ambassador there. Maybe she'll recoup some cash, though, as Cobb Partners focuse on resort development and real estate.

"...a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve..."
posted by Shane at 11:35 AM on October 14, 2004


Note that the French Ambassador has donated nearly $400K to Republicans, including $114K to Bush, and none to Democrats.

Who's the party of cheese-eating surrender monkeys, now?
posted by me3dia at 11:58 AM on October 14, 2004


Currently 1/4 to 1/3 of U.S. Ambassadors are noncareer appointees, not experienced diplomats, causing criticism since the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

This is an interesting pattern with the Bush administration -- appoint ideologically-aligned non-professionals to put in charge of leading non-political, career pros. This FPP seems to tell us that it's happening at State as well as at the Pentagon (through the Office of Special Projects, which has basically been a political arm put on top of the military).
posted by clevershark at 12:17 PM on October 14, 2004


nice one, me3dia.
posted by evening at 12:29 PM on October 14, 2004


Neat link. One thing that I hadn't heard before is that Tom Schieffer, the US Ambassador to Australia, is debate moderator Bob Schieffer's brother.

(He's a Democrat, but is a Dallas attorney who was the president of the Texas Rangers when Bush was part owner.)

I think that Bob Schieffer is a pro, but I'm surprised the Kerry camp didn't object to his selection as a debate moderator during all the pre-debate negotiations.
posted by Vidiot at 1:18 PM on October 14, 2004


"...a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve..."

This brings to mind an article I read some time ago of a similar situation regarding ambassadors appointed by Reagan. On a questionnaire one appointee, in response to the query "which languages do you speak", answered:

"English (fluent)"
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:40 PM on October 14, 2004


This is not unique to Bush and has been going on since the just about forever, with varying levels of ways to gain entry to plum and easy positions.

The reality is that you will not see political apointees to places where the ambassador's role is critical. Also, if I'm not mistaken these Ambassadors must be approved by Congress, so it's not like they're going to send a total dolt overseas to any large country at least.

I'm not saying it's right, I'm just poing out that it's always gone on, it's not unique to Bush, and the Ambassador to most small Island Nations, or large European powers, is not exactly a person operating on a high level in the Government anyway. The Consul General probably does most of the work, today's Ambassador is primarily a host.
posted by cell divide at 2:54 PM on October 14, 2004


So can our countries now evaluate our relative signifigance by the amounts of money your embassadors in our countries donated?

Finland: 6000$
Sweden: 102,000$

Goddamn those pesky Swedes! I envy their priviliged position! Why are we neglected?
posted by hoskala at 3:33 PM on October 14, 2004


So let me get this straight, they will give me $1,000 to be the Ambassador to Saudi Arabia? ;-)
posted by jaronson at 4:00 PM on October 14, 2004


This is not unique to Bush and has been going on ... just about forever, with varying levels of ways to gain entry to plum and easy positions.

I agree and I mean this as a bashing of politics in general, not just Bush.

The reality is that you will not see political apointees to places where the ambassador's role is critical.

Then again, look at "Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary" (that's the full title) Randt and China. Okay, there have been plenty of non-career appointees to China, but Randt does stand out.

I suppose I should probably mention this from last Monday too:

More than 180 Former U.S. Ambassadors from Republican and Democratic Administrations Endorse Kerry.
...
Almost half of us were nonpartisan career foreign service officers.
...
The statement criticized President Bush for needlessly squandering the good will and support of the world following the September 11 attacks and undermining our ability to win the war on terror by eroding our strong international alliances.

posted by Shane at 7:02 PM on October 14, 2004


Like with anything else, there are good political ambassadors and bad. Some are savvy and bring new ideas to the job, others are satisfied just to have the title (which is for life). The numbers have been steadily rising, as in the 70s there were about 20% politicals, I believe. Appointing politicals is not always a bad thing, if only for monetary reasons. In countries like the UK or France, for example, the ambassadors end up paying for huge (compulsory) "representation" events out of their own pockets, hence the habit of appointing non-career multimillionaires to those and other European posts. The Saudis (I notice them referenced above) tend to insist on having a personal friend of the President as their ambassador, and have refused to accept a career appointee on at least one occasion.
posted by dharmamaya at 10:42 PM on October 14, 2004


By the way, there was a wonderful series of Doonesbury cartoons about politically appointed ambassadors. It ran originally after the 1988 elections. Some of them were really hilarious.
posted by dharmamaya at 10:45 PM on October 14, 2004


The reality is that you will not see political apointees to places where the ambassador's role is critical.

I think cell divide nails it. Also, even if the ambassador is just a figure-head who got the title handed in return for certain favours, there's no doubt that the State Dep. diplomats running the shop are very capable people.
posted by AwkwardPause at 3:21 AM on October 15, 2004


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