How much does it cost to be an ambassador? Ask Obama’s donors

Want to be an ambassador? Then listen up! It’s not what you know or who you know that will get you the job – it’s how much you give.

At least, that’s the impression I got when reading Jessica Yellin’s article on the CNN political ticker this morning. In it, Yellin reports that major Democratic donors for President Obama’s re-election bid are being offered top ambassadorships in return for their contributions.

I did my best to match the names of the donors with how much they raised and which country they got in the list below:

  • Marc Lasry, the billionaire head of Avenue Capital, brought in more than $500,000 through fundraisers held at his home and will be likely become the next ambassador to France.
  • Anna Wintour, editor of vogue magazine, raised over $700,000 for the president and other Democratic candidates over the 2008-2012 period and is a candidate for an ambassadorship, though to which country is anyone’s guess.
  • Matthew Barzun of CNET was also Ambassador to Sweden from 2009-2011 after bundling for the president’s first term. This time around, Barzun brought in more than $500,000 and will end up ambassador to England.
  • Caroline Kennedy, daughter of Teddy Kennedy, worked closely with the Obama campaign after first supporting Hillary Clinton in 2008. I couldn’t find out how much she gave in 2012, but her efforts with the campaign put her at the top of the list for a stint as ambassador to Canada or Japan.

Is it just me, or does something about how these appointments work seem slightly unethical?

It’s worth noting that the Obama administration isn’t the first to effectively sell off ambassadorships. As Business Insider reports:

This is far from an exclusively Democratic Party thing.

Gov. Chris Christie got his job as U.S. Attorney for the State of New Jersey after being a Bush bundler in 2000, and appointing bundlers to easy ambassadorships is very common.

[For example,] Representative-elect Anna Wagner of Missouri was a Republican fundraiser for Bush, and that got her the Ambassadorship for Luxembourg.

So if you’ve always wanted to serve US interests, travel the world, and chill with foreign dignitaries and celebrities, I’ve got good news for you – kick a few hundred thousand dollars the President’s way, and the job’s yours!

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Posted in Foreign Policy, President Obama
2 comments on “How much does it cost to be an ambassador? Ask Obama’s donors
  1. The practice of rewarding donors to a political party or candidate with Ambassadorships is long-standing. Both parties have been doing it. I think I remember Joe Kennedy Sr. becoming Ambassador to England via this route.

    • That’s true about John F Kennedy’s father – I remember watching a documentary about the family. JFK’s Sr’s appointment as ambassador to the UK was a major feature of the film and it gave his son a boost when he ran for senate.

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