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The Price of Diplomacy — About $550,000 in Campaign Donations



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Donate enough to the president’s reelection campaign, and a posh posting awaits you abroad. The New York Times reports that “like all modern presidents before him, President Obama has appointed friends and donors to about 30 percent of diplomatic posts, often in glamorous and safe locales in Europe and Asia.”

And a new study from two Pennsylvania State University profs calculates the theoretical prices of different ambassadorial postings:

The researchers compared available information on donors’ direct political contributions and “bundling” — money raised on behalf of Mr. Obama by supporters — with data on the national income of host countries, their relative level of safety, and the robustness of their tourist industries.

Not surprisingly, the authors found that politically connected ambassadors, including former aides as well as donors, were statistically more likely to be posted to countries in the Caribbean, North America and Central America. But those whose political connections to Mr. Obama were measured in dollars, rather than administration service, had an increased chance of representing the United States in Western Europe, and a markedly smaller chance of serving in, say, Central Asia or sub-Saharan Africa. The study found that political ambassadors who had made campaign donations of $550,000, or bundled contributions of $750,000, had a 90 percent chance of being posted to a country in Western Europe. . . .

When isolating a country’s wealth over other factors, Luxembourg came in at the top of the chart, with a posting there valued at $3.1 million in direct contributions, while an appointment to Portugal was predicted to have a value of $602,686 in personal contributions. The model suggests that bundlers can get the same posts for less: Portugal was valued at about $341,160 in bundled contributions, Luxembourg at $1.8 million.

When factoring in a country’s tourist trade, however, France and Monaco top the list, with the level of personal contributions at $6.2 million and bundled contributions at $4.4 million. . . .

And what price is the Court of St. James’s — diplomatic-speak for Britain, the nation’s most prestigious post? “The price for the Court of St. James’s,” the authors find, “appears to lie between $650,000 and $2.3 million.”

Nice work if you can buy it.



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