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When It Comes To Ambassadorships, Some Things Never Change

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

By CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller and CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris.

For the president who promised "change you can believe in," some things never change.

Barack Obama is adhering to the long-standing practice of appointing big-money campaign fundraisers to serve as U.S. Ambassadors.

Late last evening, the White House quietly put out a list of 12 individuals Mr. Obama intends to nominate to represent the U.S. in foreign capitals.

Only three of the 12 are career foreign service officers; a fourth is in the foreign commercial service.

But a check by CBS News shows that at least four others played important financial roles in the Obama campaign, bundling contributions in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.


  • John V. Roos, nominee to be Ambassador to Japan. Bundled contributions of at least $500,000

  • Charles, H. Rivkin, nominee to be Ambassador to France. Bundled contributions of at least $500,000.

  • Louis B. Susman, nominee to be Ambassador to Britain. Bundled contributions of between $100,000 and $200,000.

  • Laurie S. Fulton, nominee to be Ambassador to Denmark. Bundled contributions of between $100,000 and $200,000.


These nominees have distinguished careers, but not in diplomacy. Roos and Fulton are top lawyers. Susman is a retired investment banking executive. Rivkin is a Hollywood CEO who once ran the Jim Henson Company, home of The Muppets. He was also a Democratic Convention delegate for then-Candidate Obama.

Each of the nominees will have to pass muster by undergoing the Senate confirmation process, but eyebrows and questions are always raised when individuals with political and financial ties to a President are named to ambassadorships.

Among those with such concerns is The American Foreign Service Association, which represents 23,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees at the State Department and Agency for International Development.

It's "Statement on Ambassadors" welcomes diplomatic service by private citizens, but says "this tradition of public service is undermined when individuals are chosen as ambassadors primarily for the size of their contributions to political campaigns or for their personal friendship with the President."

No one is saying the aforementioned nominees aren't fit to be the president's representatives abroad, but their political ties to him were certainly a factor in their selection.

In fact, twelve days before taking office, President-elect Obama served notice that he would make such nominations.

"Are there going to be political appointees to ambassadorships?" he said, posing the question to himself. "There probably will be some."

Not quite a campaign promise, but he delivered on it.

At his daily press briefing today, spokesman Robert Gibbs said "the president was exceedingly forthcoming on that in January."