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15 Former AFSA Presidents Urge Senators to Oppose Confirmation of Ambassadorial Nominees to Norway, Hungary, and Argentina

– Domani Spero

On March 5, 2014, the AFSA Governing Board resolution says that “AFSA will send letters to the Senate and the White House expressing concern that the recent nominations for chief of mission positions in Norway, Hungary and Argentina appear to be based primarily on their status as financial contributors to political campaigns, which is in violation of the Foreign Service Act of 1980.” 

On Friday, March 7, fifteen former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) wrote to Senators Reid, McConnell, Menendez, Corker, Franken, Klobuchar, McCain, Cardin, Mikulski, Warner, Kaine, Whitehouse  and others, urging the non-confirmation of President Obama’s nominees for ambassadors to Norway, Hungary and Argentina.

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Below is an excerpt from their letter:

Among the nominees for ambassadorships currently under consideration by the Senate, three have generated considerable public controversy: George Tsunis (Norway), Colleen Bell (Hungary), and Noah Mamet (Argentina). The nominations of Mr. Tsunis and Ms. Bell have been forwarded to the full Senate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As former presidents of the American Foreign Service Association, the professional association and trade union of career members of the Foreign Service, we urge you to oppose granting Senate consent to these three candidates. Although we have no reason to doubt that the nominees are conscientious and worthy Americans, the fact that they appear to have been chosen on the basis of their service in raising money for electoral campaigns, with minimal demonstrated qualifications for their posts, has subjected them to widespread public ridicule, not only in the U.S. but also abroad. As a result, their effectiveness as U.S. representatives in their host countries would be severely impaired from the start. Their nominations also convey a disrespectful message, that relations with the host country are not significant enough to demand a chief of mission with relevant expertise.

These three nominations represent a continuation of an increasingly unsavory and unwise practice by both parties.  In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “The spoils or patronage theory is that public office is primarily designed for partisan plunder.”  Sadly it has persisted, even after President Nixon’s acknowledged rewarding of ambassadorial nominations to major campaign donors was exposed.
[…]
During his 2008 election campaign, President Obama recognized the appropriateness of these guidelines, and promised to respect them. The time for the Senate to begin enforcing its own guidelines set forth in law for U.S. diplomatic chiefs of mission is now.  The nation cannot afford otherwise.

The signatories of the letter are Marshall Adair, Thomas Boyatt, Kenneth Bleakley, Theodore Eliot, Franklyn A Harris, William Harrop, Dennis Hays, J. Anthony Holmes, Lars Hydle, Susan Johnson, Alphonse La Porta, John Limbert, John Naland, Lannon Walker, and Theodore Wilkinson.

One scenario where this might get off  the hot topics column is if the nominees themselves recognize that their confirmation hearing performance and subsequent public ridicule would have an impact on their effectiveness as President Obama’s top representatives in their prospective host countries, and withdraw their names for consideration. This would be the less messy route, but we do not anticipate this happening or it would have happened already.

Another scenario is if we get to see more Senate confirmation hearings bungled under similar circumstances, with the accompanying public uproar, and more mockery from cable news and comedians day in and day out — which might, just might make President Obama think, “enough already.” If that happens, it might also forced him to  revisit his promise that “the days of Michael Brown, Arabian Horse Judge, are over.”  Well, that’s a lot of ifs and mights, so we’re not holding our breath.

There is, of course, the ultimate scenario that we have seen before, and no doubt, we’ll see again — Senators’ offices will acknowledge the former AFSA presidents’ letter and others like it, and then proceed to confirm the nominees (Senate holds for ambassadorial nominees seem reserved for nutty reasons like the case of an ancient boyfriend or the ethnic origin of the nominee’s wife). It is just a coincidence that some nominees are also contributors to the Senate Majority PAC, the party’s Senatorial Campaign, the party’s victory fund or even to the guys from the other party.  Oh, but we are extraordinarily special and exceptional that way — watch.

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Filed under AFSA, Ambassadorships, Congress, Foreign Service, Obama, Political Appointees, Politics, Realities of the FS

Officially In: Denise Bauer — from Women for Obama to Belgium

—By Domani Spero
On June 21, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Denise Bauer as the next Ambassador to Belgium. The WH released the following brief bio:

Denise Bauer is Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Belvedere Community Foundation in Belvedere, California.  Ms. Bauer was Finance Chair for Women for Obama from 2011 to 2012, and served on the Obama for America National Finance Committee from 2011 to 2012 and from 2007 to 2008.  From 2008 to 2012, she served on the Democratic National Committee, serving as Chair and Co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Forum and as Co-chair of the National Issues Conference.  Prior to this, Ms. Bauer worked in television news and public affairs.  From 1993 to 1994, she was a Public Affairs Officer for the American Red Cross Bay Area in San Francisco.  From 1990 to 1992, she was a freelance film and video producer in Los Angeles, and from 1988 to 1990, she was the News Producer for the North American Bureau of Nine Network Australia in Los Angeles.  She began her career in television in 1985 as a Field Producer and Researcher for KCBS-TV News in Los Angeles.

Ms. Bauer received a B.A. from Occidental College.

According to www.barackobama.com, Ms. Bauer is one of the fundraisers who bundled $500,000+ for the Obama campaign in 2012.

The Center for Public Integrity notes that the actual amount Ms. Bauer  raised could be much higher as the Obama campaign only used broad ranges to describe the activities of its bundlers, the highest of which was “more than $500,000.” She’s considered one of the top ten bundlers for President Obama in the 2012 campaign.

The NYT’s list of Obama Top Fund-Raisers in September 2012 listed Ms. Bauer as a homemaker from Belvedere Tiburon, California who raised a total of $4,367,187 since 2007.

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Bauer would replace Ambassador Howard Gutman. According to OpenSecrets.org, Ambassador Gutman was one of the two dozen major campaign bundlers who became ambassadors following the 2008 election.  The outgoing ambassador raised at least $775,000 for President Obama’s 2008 campaign and first inauguration.  The new nominee announced raised almost six times that amount for President Obama’s reelection campaign which may or may not mean anything for the 2016 bundlers who wants Belgium.

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Related item:

June 21, 2013 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

 

 

 

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Filed under Ambassadorships, Nominations, Obama, Officially In, Political Appointees