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More Than Half of Obama's Fundraisers Given Administration Jobs

More Than Half of Obama's Fundraisers Given Administration Jobs

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The Influence Industry: Obama givesadministration jobs to some bigfundraisers
T.W. Farnam
The Influence Industry 
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President Obama
s reelection campaign is raising moneyand reaching out to voters and volunteers.
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By T.W. Farnam,
Big donors considering whether to work the phones raising money for PresidentObama
s reelection campaign might consider the fate of his 2008 bundlers.Many of them, it turns out, won plum jobs in his administration.Obama campaigned on what he called
the most sweeping ethics reform inhistory 
and has frequently criticized the role of money in politics. That hasn
tstopped him from offering government jobs to some of his biggest bundlers, volunteer fundraisers who gather political contributions from other rich donors.More than half of Obama
s 47 biggestfundraisers, those who collected atleast $500,000 for his campaign, have
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 been given administration jobs. Ninemore have been appointed topresidential boards and committees. At least 24 Obama bundlers were givenposts as foreign ambassadors,including in Finland, Australia,Portugal and Luxembourg. Amongthem is Don Beyer, a former Virginialieutenant governor who serves asambassador to Switzerland andLiechtenstein.
In filling these posts, theadministration looks for the mostqualified candidates who represent Americans from all walks of life,
said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
Being a donor does not get you a jobin this administration, nor does itpreclude you from getting one.
 It is a time-honored tradition toreward political supporters withadministration jobs, ambassadorshipsin particular. And Obama
sadministration falls in line with theprevious one in terms of the share of ambassadors who are politicalappointees rather than career ForeignService officers.The Foreign Service Act of 1980,however, states that
contributions to political campaigns should not be a factorin the appointment of an individual as a chief of mission.
 Obama has appointed 59 ambassadors who were not career Foreign Serviceofficers, and of those, 40 percent were bundlers.
 We think that the pendulum has swung a bit too far toward the patronage sideof things,
said Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, which represents career officers.Not all political appointees have been bad ambassadors, Johnson said, but somehave been less qualified, making them
costly in terms of advancing andprotecting our interests and costly for the taxpayers.
 Obama has appointed campaign bundlers to a range of other jobs as well. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was a bundler, raising at least $50,000, as was Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal CommunicationsCommission, who raised at least half a million dollars.Obama hired bundler Steve Spinner as a liaison in the Energy Department. According to internal e-mails turned over in a congressional investigation,Spinner pressed for staff members to finalize a government loan for Solyndra,the now-shuttered solar company in which another campaign bundler was amajor investor. Spinner, according to the Obama administration, did not make
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any decisions affecting Solyndra. At least two of Obama
s bundler-ambassadors have had rocky tenures, accordingto reports from the State Department inspector general.Nicole Avant, a music industry executive who raised at least $500,000, served asambassador to the Bahamas until November.The inspector general wrote that her tenure was part of 
an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement, which has caused problemsthroughout the embassy.
The report said Avant spent roughly 40 percent of hertime out of the country over a two-year period.In an interview, Avant said that she inherited an embassy with managementproblems and that her travel was not out of line.
Part of my job as a U.S. ambassador was to travel,
she said. Avant is now helping the Obama campaign raise money from donors inHollywood.Luxembourg Ambassador Cynthia Stroum, a Seattle venture capitalist whoraised $500,000 for Obama, was also criticized in an inspector general
s report, which said she sent her staff on a house-hunting mission, billed the governmentfor bedding after being told she couldn
t and was
keenly interested
in thematerials used for remodeling two bathrooms in her residence.
Most employees describe the ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, andintimidating,
inspectors wrote of Stroum.Stroum did not return messages seeking comment.She was replaced by another bundler, Robert Mandell, a Florida real estatedeveloper who raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama
s campaign.Statistics kept by the American Foreign Service Association show that certainposts are favored for political appointees. In recent decades, many Europeancapitals, for example, have been staffed by political appointees more than 70percent of the time. A representative of the association called those the
 well-known sumptuous posts.
 Staff writer Carol Leonnig contributed to this report.
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