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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Ambassadorships and Campaign Money

Previous posts have discussed the federal posts that have gone to contributors and bundlers. Barndon Conradis reports at Open Secrets:
President Obama's choice to be the next ambassador to Hungary is Colleen Bradley Bell, a television producer who made a name for herself working on the daytime soap opera "The Bold and the Beautiful" -- and who has been a major contributor to Obama since his first presidential race.
In 2008, Bell contributed $63,900 to the president. During the following election in 2012, she contributed $102,400, and bundled more than $500,000 on top of that. In addition, she and her husband, Bradley, held a re-election fundraiser for Obama at their home in Los Angeles last year, which the president attended.
Bell is the latest of Obama's friends in the entertainment industry to be named official envoys of the U.S. James Costos, HBO's vice president of global licensing and retail, as well as a past Obama campaign and inaugural donor, was chosen to be the next ambassador to Spain this summer. In 2012, Charles Rivkin, who bundled at least $500,000 for Obama in 2008 and was at one time president and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, was appointed ambassador to France.

Similarly, in 2009, Obama nominated Nicole Avant, a major bundler for the president with ties to the music industry, to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas. That choice didn't turn out so well: Her tenure ended less than two years later, when she resigned amid reports of failed leadership.
Consider the case of Howard Gutman.  During the 2008 campaign, Obama promised not to make an issue of his opponents' private lives.  Then ABC reported:
On the Laura Ingraham Radio show, Friday, attorney Howard Gutman — an original member of the national finance committee for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — very directly criticized the parenting of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
...
"This has nothing to do with gender, whether Todd Palin was the nominee or Sarah Palin was the nominee," Gutman said. "If my daughter had just come home at 17 years old and said, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m pregnant, we have a family problem,’ I wouldn’t say, ‘You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to take this private family problem…and you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go on the international stage and broadcast this to the world.’"
Gutman continued, "this wasn’t a working mother issue, this was a parent issue…The proper attack is not that a woman shouldn’t run for vice president with five kids, it’s that a parent, when they have a family in need, a Down’s baby who needs them — mother or father."
"So you are judging her parenting skills," Ingraham said. "You’re saying you don’t think she’s a good parent for doing this job."
"I’m saying the proper criticism is not that it’s a woman or man – it doesn’t matter whether it’s Todd or Sarah," Gutman said. "Think of how many politicians have said it’s not the right time in my family’s life for me to run."
Obama did not separate himself from Gutman.  Instead, he appointed him ambassador to Belgium.  It did not go well.  In 2011, Haaretz reported:
Some Jewish groups and others were demanding Sunday that United States President Barak Obama take action against his ambassador to Belgium, following comments the envoy made to the effect that Israel’s political positions serve as some sort of explanation for anti-Semitism amongst Muslims.

Ambassador Howard Gutman, who is Jewish, made the controversial remarks at a conference on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union in Brussels last week.

“A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Gutman reportedly told those gathered, going on to argue that “…an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.”

In reaction to the comments, and the subsequent uproar they caused, the White House released a statement distancing itself from Gutman's words: "We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms, and that there is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel," read the statement, which was sent out over the weekend to Jewish leaders.
In July of this year, The New York Daily News reported:
The U.S. ambassador to Belgium on Tuesday denounced what he called “baseless allegations” that he solicited sexual favors in a Brussels park.
“I live on a beautiful park in Brussels that you walk through to get to many locations, and at no point have I ever engaged in any improper activity,” said Howard Gutman, who has held the post for four years.
Gutman’s name has emerged in connection with an internal memo from the U.S. Department of State’s inspector general that claimed senior State Department officials quashed eight different internal investigations of wrongdoing in the diplomatic corps.
He soon quit.