Obama Aide Says Donors in Administration Jobs Are Qualified

Wednesday, 15 Jun 2011 04:00 PM


(Updates with figures on ambassadorial appointments in last two paragraphs.)

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s spokesman said the campaign donors who got administration jobs all were highly qualified for their positions.

“The president appoints people based on their qualifications,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said today at a White House briefing. Contributing to the president’s campaign didn’t automatically qualify donors for jobs, nor was it disqualifying, he said.

“People were appointed on merits,” Carney said. “We stand by those appointments.”

Carney was responding to a report by the independent Center for Public Integrity’s IWatch News, which said that 184 of Obama’s 556 biggest campaign donors or their spouses have been appointed to government positions. Almost 80 percent of those who raised at least $500,000 each for the president’s 2008 election got what the White House defined as “key” administration posts, the report said.

At least 19 of those who collected cash for Obama’s campaign have ties to businesses that may profit from federal spending on administration priorities such as clean energy and telecommunications, the report said.

Donors as Ambassadors

During the campaign, Obama vowed to limit the influence of money in politics. After his inauguration, Obama continued a longstanding practice by U.S. presidents of naming campaign donors ambassadors to countries such as the U.K., Japan and France.

Among those nominated by Obama and confirmed as ambassadors:

-- Louis Susman, a retired Citigroup Inc. senior investment banker, to the U.K. He raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s presidential campaign

-- John Roos, chief executive officer of the Palo Alto, California-based law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, to Japan. He raised more than $500,000 for Obama.

-- Charles Rivkin, chief executive officer of Wildbrain Inc., to France. Rivkin collected more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaign and $300,000 for his inauguration.

-- Laurie Fulton, a partner with Williams & Connolly LLP, to Denmark. Fulton raised $100,000 to $200,000.

Both Democratic and Republican presidents have given assignments to donors with no particular expertise in their designated country. Historically, about a third of ambassadorial postings have gone to political appointees.

Political Appointments

Of 187 ambassadorial positions, 64 percent currently are filled by career foreign service officers and 31 percent are political appointees, according to the American Foreign Service Association, the professional association for members of the U.S. Foreign Service. That includes appointments made by Obama and holdovers from his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Of Obama’s nominations, 36 percent were considered political appointments, according to the association. Not all of those necessarily went to large-scale donors. Among those regarded by the association as political appointments are Ryan Crocker, who retired from the foreign service in 2009 following senior diplomatic roles in the Bush and Obama administrations, to serve as ambassador to Pakistan, and Gary Locke, the commerce secretary and former governor of Washington state, whom Obama has nominated as ambassador to China.

--With assistance from Roger Runningen and Hans Nichols in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Leslie Hoffecker

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Johnston in Washington at njohnston3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2015 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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