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Patronage, Obama Style

Morgen on July 7, 2009 at 3:47 pm

The Washington Times ran a story today on a topic I’ve been digging into myself – the striking number of political appointments granted by the Obama Administration to the most prodigious fundraisers of the Obama campaign. These top fundraisers are known as “bundlers”. Since campaign finance laws restrict any one individual from donating more than $2400 to a single candidate, these bundlers achieve prominence within a campaign by soliciting for and then – you guessed it – bundling up individual donations received via their extended network of friends, family, business contacts, etc. While exact figures are not available, the top bundlers within the Obama campaign each delivered in excess of $1 million in campaign contributions, and there were nearly 50 bundlers who were responsible for at least $500K in donations.

As the Times notes, it’s somewhat of a Washington tradition for an incoming President to appoint choice ambassadorships to key political donors and allies. While this may be the case, for a President who declared a “new era” of accountability, and who championed ethics reform while in the Senate, a look at the appointments made to date reveals what I think is a surprising level of cronyism on the part of this Administration. And notably, many of these appointments extend outside the relatively ceremonial realm of diplomatic posts.

Let’s first run through the appointments highlighted by the Washington Times article:

Kankakee-Bradley, IL12.0
Rocky Mount, NC12.1
Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA12.1
Naples-Marco Island, FL12.2
Punta Gorda, FL12.3
Carson City, NV12.5
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL12.5
Steubenville-Weirton, OH-WV12.5
Chico, CA12.8
Muskegon-Norton Shores, MI12.8
Reno-Sparks, NV12.8
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL12.9
Elkhart-Goshen, IN12.9
Flint, MI13.0
Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI13.3
Bend, OR13.4
Port St. Lucie, FL13.7
Ocala, FL13.8
Las Vegas-Paradise, NV14.1
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA14.2
Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL14.2
Madera-Chowchilla, CA14.3
Bakersfield-Delano, CA14.4
Rockford, IL14.4
Redding, CA14.6
Hanford-Corcoran, CA15.0
Palm Coast, FL15.5
Fresno, CA15.7
Visalia-Porterville, CA15.9
Modesto, CA16.2
Merced, CA 16.3
Stockton, CA16.3
Yuba City, CA17.8
Yuma, AZ26.7
El Centro, CA29.3

Perhaps budget cuts have impacted the research team at the Times because I was able to find several other ambassadorship appointments that they apparently missed:

North KoreaMarxist/Atheist
BurmaAtheist junta ruling Buddhist populace
Equatorial GuineaPersonality Cult - Leader has called himself a "god."
LibyaIslamic dictatorship
SudanIslamic, authoritarian
TibetRun by the communist Chinese oligarchy
BelarusCommunist dictatorship
ChadIslamic dictatorship
ChinaCommunist oligarchy
CubaCommunist dictatorship
EritreaHumanitarian dictatorship? This is a weird one
LaosCommunist dictatorship
Saudi ArabiaIslamic oligarchy
SyriaIslamic dictatorship
GuineaPresidential republic? Formerly run by a Christian insurgent general
MoroccoConstitutional monarchy
South OssetiaRussian puppet state

Add these up and that’s 12 13 appointments (12!) to key diplomatic positions that were awarded directly to top Obama fundraisers. And that’s within only the first 6 months of the Administration. I expect there will be more to come, which is why I had initially held off on posting this.

But that’s not all. The tables above represent only the ambassadorship appointments. Take a look at some of the other Administration positions awarded within the ranks of the campaign bundlers:

Non-negotiableWilling to accept
Tax increases, insignificant changes to entitlements$800 billion in increased revenue through closing of loopholes, etc.
Short term deal that would bring this issue back up before the election.Discretionary and defense cuts plus $600 billion in entitlement reform.

Yes, the Chairman of the FCC. Three positions within the Attorney General’s office. A key legal advisory role within the White House itself. And the Corporation for National & Community Service has made headlines over the past month for the firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin.

By my calculation, nearly half of the top level of Obama campaign bundlers have been rewarded with some sort of role within the government. Half! What will it take for others within the media to further investigate and question the Administration about this? Frankly, I thought even the Washington Times was overly generous in their characterization of the Administration’s behavior with these types of appointments.

I’ll wrap this up by quoting a sub-section of President Obama’s Executive Order on Ethics Commitments for Executive Branch Personnel:

Employment Qualification Commitment.  I agree that any hiring or other employment decisions I make will be based on the candidate’s qualifications, competence, and experience.

Apparently when you are the boss you aren’t required to follow your own rules.

Update: John pointed me to another key Obama fundraiser who has been awarded a position of sorts within the Administration.  Robert Wolf is the Chairman/CEO of investment bank UBS and given his influence on Wall Street may in fact be the largest bundler of them all. Significantly, Wolf’s firm seems to be mired in several tax-related scandals; and they were also a key counter-party recipient of  funds from AIG, courtesy of the U.S. tax payer. However, apparently all this was not enough to deter the President from naming Wolf to his Economic Advisory Council.

Update 2: I will continue to update the tables above as other appointments are made or brought to my attention (e.g. I just saw that I missed an ambassadorship appointment to Canada because the individual was responsible for only $50-100K in bundled donations).

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