Obama Nominates Donors for European Ambassadorships in 2nd Term

President Barack Obama is nominating three financial backers for ambassadorships in Denmark, Spain and Germany.

Rufus Gifford, the finance director for Obama’s presidential campaign who is also active in the gay rights movement, was nominated to be the U.S. envoy to Denmark; James Costos, a financial supporter whose partner, Michael Smith, redecorated the White House, is being nominated for the job in Spain; and John Emerson, the president of Capital Guardian Trust Co. and a California fundraiser, was picked as U.S. ambassador to Germany.

“It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this Administration to serve the American people,” Obama said in a statement announcing his choices. “I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”

Along with the three donors, Obama nominated Ken Hackett, the president of the Catholic Relief Services, to serve as ambassador to the Vatican.

He also made two selections from the ranks of career foreign service officers, nominating Ambassador Liliana Ayalde, deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, to serve in Brazil, and Ambassador Patricia Marie Haslach,  principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, for Ethiopia.

Ayalde had previously served as ambassador to Paraguay and Haslach was the U.S. envoy in Laos.

The nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

Rewarding Supporters

Presidents long have rewarded supporters with embassy postings with about a third of the ambassadorial posts worldwide held by political appointees. Their personal ties to a president make them particularly valued in the capitals of close allies such as the U.K., France, Italy, Japan and Canada. The most difficult or dangerous posts typically go to career officers.

Including today’s nominations, Obama has named 82 political supporters to ambassadorships, 31 percent of embassy postings, just above the historical average of 30 percent, according to statistics compiled by the American Foreign Service Association in Washington, a group that represents U.S. career diplomats.

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