Top Obama Fundraisers Get Posts
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
By Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — More than 40% of President Obama's top-level fundraisers have secured posts in his administration, from key executive branch jobs to diplomatic postings in countries such as France, Spain and the Bahamas, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Twenty of the 47 fundraisers that Obama's campaign identified as collecting more than $500,000 have been named to government positions, the analysis found.

Overall, about 600 individuals and couples raised money from their friends, family members and business associates to help fund Obama's presidential campaign. USA TODAY's analysis found that 54 have been named to government positions, ranging from Cabinet and White House posts to advisory roles, such as serving on the economic recovery board charged with helping guide the country out of recession.

Nearly a year after he was elected on a pledge to change business-as-usual in Washington, Obama also has taken a cue from his predecessors and appointed fundraisers to coveted ambassadorships, drawing protests from groups representing career diplomats. A separate analysis by the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats' union, found that more than half of the ambassadors named by Obama so far are political appointees, said Susan Johnson, president of the association. An appointment is considered political if it does not go to a career diplomat in the State Department.

That's a rate higher than any president in more than four decades, the group's data show, although that could change as the White House fills more openings. Traditionally about 30% of top diplomatic jobs go to political appointees, and roughly 70% to veteran State Department employees. Ambassadors earn $153,200 to $162,900 annually.

"It is time to end the spoils system and the de facto sale of ambassadorships," Johnson said. "The United States is best served by having experienced, knowledgeable and trained career officers fill all positions in our diplomatic service."

The administration is "well aware of the historical target of career vs. non-career ambassadors, and we will be right on that target," said White House spokesman Thomas Vietor. He said the first round of diplomatic jobs traditionally go to political appointees because those are the first available when a president takes office.

Vietor said Obama also made it clear early on that he would "nominate extremely qualified individuals who didn't necessarily come up through the ranks of the State Department but want to serve their country."

Among the top Obama fundraisers with jobs: former technology executive Julius Genachowski as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Nicole Avant, a music industry executive who is the top envoy in the Bahamas. Neither granted interview requests.

Those not in the administration benefited in other ways, including attending invitation-only White House bashes, such as a St. Patrick's Day gala.

Fundraiser David Gail, a Dallas lawyer that the campaign identified as raising between $100,000 and $200,000, joined dignitaries in July for an East Room country music concert featuring Alison Krauss and Charley Pride. He said he greeted Obama after the event but doesn't have special access to the president, who was elected on a pledge to change business-as-usual in Washington.

"I've seen people who have been included on conference calls or events who were very involved at the grass-roots level," Gail said.

"Contributing doesn't guarantee a visit to the White House," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday, "nor does it preclude it."

Others not on the campaign's list of official bundlers also have reaped rewards.

Sacramento developer Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, a fundraiser in Hillary Rodham Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign, was nominated this month by Obama to serve as ambassador to Hungary. Clinton is now secretary of state.
Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis did not respond to interview requests, and her office referred calls to the White House.

It's too early to tell how big a role Obama's fundraisers will play. On the ambassador front alone, nearly 100 top positions remain unfilled, according to the American Foreign Service Association's tally.

Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, wants Obama to limit political appointees to about 10% of diplomatic jobs. "The direction is not good," he said of Obama's appointments to date, "but you cannot definitively say what the picture will be for the whole administration."

President Obama has named 54 fundraisers to government positions. Here's a look at who they are and how much they raised. The campaign reported fundraising in broad ranges only.


Nicole Avant

Ambassador to the Bahamas

Matthew Barzun

Ambassador to Sweden

Don Beyer

Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Jeff Bleich

Ambassador to Australia**

Richard Danzig

Member, Defense Policy Board

William Eacho

Ambassador to Austria

Julius Genachowski

Chairman of Federal Communications Commission

Donald Gips

Ambassador to South Africa

Howard Gutman

Ambassador to Belgium

Scott Harris

General Counsel, Department of Energy

William Kennard

Ambassador to the European Union**

Bruce Oreck

Ambassador to Finland

Spencer Overton

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Thomas Perrelli

Associate Attorney General

Abigail Pollack

Member, Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of the American Latino

Charles Rivkin

Ambassador to France and Monaco

John Roos

Ambassador of Japan

Francisco Sanchez

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade

Alan Solomont

Ambassador to Spain and Andorra**

Cynthia Stroum

Ambassador to Luxembourg**

RAISED BETWEEN $200,000 and $500,000

A. Marisa Chun

Deputy associate attorney general

Gregory Craig

White House counsel

Norman Eisen

Special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform

Michael Froman

Deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs

Mark Gallogly

Member, Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Max Holtzman

Senior adviser to the Agriculture secretary

James Hudson

Director, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Jeh Johnson

General counsel, Department of Defense

Samuel Kaplan

Ambassador to Morocco

Nicole Lamb-Hale

Deputy general counsel, Commerce Department

Andres Lopez

Member, Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of the American Latino

Cindy Moelis

Director, Commission on White House Fellows

William Orrick

Counselor to the assistant attorney general

John Phillips

Chairman, Commission on White House Fellows

Penny Pritzker***

Member, Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Bob Rivkin

General counsel, Transportation Department

Desiree Rogers

White House social secretary

Louis Susman

Ambassador to the United Kingdom

Robert Sussman

Senior policy counsel, Environmental Protection Agency

Christina Tchen

Director, White House Office of Public Engagement

Barry White

Ambassador to Norway

RAISED BETWEEN $100,000 and $200,000

Preeta Bansal

General counsel, Office of Management and Budget

Laurie Fulton

Ambassador to Denmark

Fred Hochberg

President, Export-Import Bank of the United States

Valerie Jarrett

Senior adviser to the president

Kevin Jennings

Assistant deputy secretary of Education

Steven Rattner

Treasury Department adviser

Miriam Sapiro

Deputy U.S. trade representative**

Vinai Thummalapally

Ambassador to Belize

RAISED BETWEEN $50,000 and $100,000

Eric Holder

Attorney general

David Jacobson

Ambassador to Canada

Ronald Kirk

U.S. trade representative

Rocco Landesman

Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

Susan Rice

Ambassador to the United Nations

** Nominated, not yet confirmed by Senate

*** National finance chairwoman

Sources: Obama campaign, Public Citizen; White House; USA TODAY research


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