Every president rewards some major campaign contributors by appointing them as ambassadors, but it’s not a practice that’s considered very beneficial for U.S. foreign policy. So when President Obama put up campaign bundler George Tsunis to become the U.S. ambassador to Norway — even though Tsunis himself conceded at confirmation hearings that he has little idea how Norway’s government functions or even the names of its major political parties — former diplomat and Lehigh University international relations professor Henri Barkey had had enough.
“President Obama does a disservice to Norwegians, to himself and, above all, to the people of the United States by sending such an unqualified person to represent him and us in the capital of a long-standing NATO ally,” Barkey wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, calling the appointment a “taxpayer-funded three-year junket to enjoy the fjords.”
George Tsunis will have lots of company: 23 current U.S. ambassadors or ambassadorial nominees are political appointees who were also major campaign-donation bundlers. As a way of seeing just how pervasive this practice is, Slate and the Center for Public Integrity put together this excellent interactive map showing them all (in green), as well as a selection of other political appointees (in red) and actual career diplomats (in blue). Here is a static grab of the map:
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