Luxembourg Ambassador Says She Filed Rebuttal

SEATTLE (AP) - A superstar donor of President Barack Obama's last campaign who later became ambassador to Luxembourg said Saturday that she has filed a rebuttal to an internal State Department review that found her tenure to be a disaster.

Cynthia Stroum told The Associated Press that she did not know whether she could release details of the rebuttal publicly.

"I've been caught off guard," she said. "I want to be helpful and I want to get my side out, but whether that's something I can release or not, I don't know."

The State Department report released Thursday said her 14 months in Luxembourg were fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor. It said things were so bad that some staff requested transfers to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well-documented management problems have troubled the embassy for a decade, Stroum said, and certain problems cited in the report were due to vacant senior staff positions.

The internal memo took some of that into account.

"The current Ambassador is not responsible for the management cuts in 2008 that crippled general services operations before her arrival," it said. "However, the bulk of the mission's internal problems are linked to her leadership deficiencies, the most damaging of which is an abusive management style."

But Stroum said she was proud of the work she did, reiterating a statement first released to The Seattle Times in which she said she focused on initiatives that were in the best interest of U.S.-Luxembourg relations. She said she was proud of the links she helped create between companies in Luxembourg and Washington state.

"Serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg has been a true privilege," she said in an e-mail. "I have new found respect for the hard work done by the diplomatic corps around the world and applaud all of those who serve their country."

Stroum, 60, is the daughter of the late Sam Stroum, a Seattle philanthropist who made a fortune as an investor in the Schuck's Auto Supply.

Sam Stroum was credited with saving the Seattle Symphony from bankruptcy and pushing the construction of Benaroya Hall, the symphony's home. He also served as president of the University of Washington Board of Regents, The Times reported.

Cynthia Stroum is an investor in Washington state-based companies, including Starbucks. She established two foundations focusing on cancer research and served on the board of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

She was also a producer on the Broadway revival of "A Raisin in the Sun," which received a Tony nomination in 2004.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., had vouched for Stroum at her confirmation hearing, saying that "she will be an outstanding representative for our country."

As a fundraiser, Stroum ginned up at least $500,000 for Obama, putting her near the top of the campaign's money generators. Stroum also donated at least $13,800 to the campaigns of Cantwell and Sen. Patty Murray since 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The State Department report said Stroum stressed to embassy staffers "the importance she attaches to the perquisites of" being an ambassador. As such, she was particularly concerned about the state of the ambassador's residence, which was being renovated, it said.

Embassy officials spent weeks trying to find her appropriate temporary housing, screening hundreds of properties. They found four that met her criteria, and she rejected all of them before finally settling on a residence.

The report also found that she inappropriately spent $2,400 on a trip to Switzerland; that the embassy bought $3,400 in liquor and wine to use up its entertainment budget even though such year-end sprees are barred; and that Stroum was reimbursed for buying a new queen-sized bed, even though she had been provided with a king-sized one.