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Obama Ambassador Nominees Big Campaign Contributors

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President Obama announced another 10 names for ambassadorships last week, and in doing so, he awarded another set of big donors and bundlers with plum positions representing U.S. interests abroad. The new nominees for ambassadors to Belize, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Romania and Switzerland — along with their spouses and dependent children — have contributed at least $637,800 to federal candidates, parties and committees since 1989, CRP has found. Nearly that entire sum has gone to Democrats, including $32,775 to Obama himself and $8,300 to former primary opponent and now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. These individuals also brought in at least $1.1 million for Obama's presidential bid as bundlers, and at least another half-a-million as bundlers for his inauguration.

To date, this brings the contribution histories of Obama's ambassador nominees to roughly $1.8 million in donations since 1989. The 19 ambassadors that CRP has found in our campaign contribution database, along with their spouses and children, have given more than $98,200 to Obama personally, bundled at least $3.4 million for his 2008 presidential run and bundled another $1.4 million for his inauguration. See our earlier dispatches about this topic here and here.

Not all of Obama's ambassador picks with political ties connect to the Democratic Party, however. In naming Jon Huntsman, the Republican governor of Utah, to be the ambassador to China, Obama elevated someone who bundled at least $500,000 for his main opponent last fall, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

When Obama nominated new ambassadors last week, he specifically promoted the following people with financial ties to his campaign to serve, including a former college roommate:

-- Colorado business executive Vinai Thummalapally for ambassador to Belize. Thummalapally has been a longtime friend of the president's, ever since they were roommates at Occidental College. He has also been a longtime financial backer of Obama's, including bundling between $100,000 and $200,000 for his 2008 presidential bid. Moreover, along with his wife and children, Thummalapally has contributed $13,375 to Obama since 1999, of which $11,875 came during the 2008 election cycle. At that time, not only did he and his wife make large contributions but, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, so did his "not employed/student" children Vishal and Sharanya, who sent contributions of $2,300 and $2,275, respectively, Obama's way.

-- Former Virginia lieutenant governor and businessman Donald Beyer for ambassador to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Beyer and his wife, Megan, have contributed more than $399,000 to Democratic candidates, parties and committees since 1989, including $9,200 to Obama, $3,000 to Clinton — and $2,000 to 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean from their "not employed/student" daughter Stephanie. Moreover, they bundled at least $500,000 for Obama's presidential bid. Megan also bundled at least $245,000 for Obama's inauguration committee, according to Public Citizen.

-- Washington lawyer Howard W. Gutman for ambassador to Belgium. He and his wife, Michelle Loewinger, have contributed at least $86,150 to Democratic candidates, parties and committees since 1989. Gutman contributed the legal maximum of $2,300 to Clinton's presidential bid, and he and his wife also contributed the legal maximum of $4,600 a piece to Obama's presidential run. Additionally, Gutman bundled at least $500,000 for Obama's campaign committee and another $275,000 for his inauguration committee.

-- Mark Gitenstein, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and a partner with a DC-based law firm, for ambassador to Romania. Gitenstein and his wife, Elizabeth, have contributed more than $128,600 to federal candidates, parties and committees since the 1990 election cycle — with 98 percent of that money going to Democrats. Mark also contributed $2,500 to Hillary Clinton since 2005, while Elizabeth contributed $1,000 to Obama during his presidential bid.

Obama's most recent batch of ambassadorship nominations also includes five career diplomats, with no histories of political contributions. These include Richard J. Schmierer to Oman, Gordon Gray to Tunisia, Pamela J. H. Slutz to Burundi, Martha L. Campbell to the Marshall Islands and John Nay to Suriname. Retired Army General Alfonso E. Lenhardt, who also has no known history of contributions of more than $200 to federal candidates or groups, was also nominated to serve as ambassador to Tanzania.

You can also download an Excel spreadsheet of the political contributions associated with these 19 ambassadors here: Obama_ambassador_Data_090612.xls. (Note: If you do use this data, please be sure to credit CRP. You will find that the spreadsheet has three tabs, one with basic summary information about how much each has contributed and bundled; another with more detailed summary information about the timing of these contributions; and a third with more detailed information regarding the timing and recipient of money from these donors-turned-ambassadors).


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