(THE GUARDIAN) -- Barack Obama has rewarded some of his most active campaign donors with plum jobs in foreign embassies, with the average amount raised by recent or imminent appointees soaring to $1.8m per post, according to a Guardian analysis.
The practice is hardly a new feature of US politics, but career diplomats in Washington are increasingly alarmed at how it has grown. One former ambassador described it as the selling of public office.
On Tuesday, Obama's chief money-raiser Matthew Barzun became the latest major donor to be nominated as an ambassador, when the White House put him forward as the next representative to the Court of St James's, a sought-after posting whose plush residence comes with a garden second only in size to that of Buckingham Palace.
As campaign finance chairman, Barzun helped raise $700m to fund President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. More than $2.3m of this was raised personally by Barzun, pictured, according to party recordsleaked to the New York Times, even though he had only just finished a posting as ambassador to Sweden after contributing to Obama's first campaign.
State Department veterans are increasingly concerned about the size of donations raised by political supporters who go on to take up top foreign postings. Thomas Pickering, who recently led the investigation into lethal attacks on the US embassy in Libya and represented the US at the United Nations, claimed the practice had become nothing more than "simony" – the selling of public office.
"All these people want to go to places where the lifestyle issues [are pleasant], and to some extent that produces this notion that life in these western European embassies is like Perle Mesta," he told the Guardian, referring to the "hostess with the mostest" who was ambassador to Luxembourg between 1949 and 1953 and who was known for her lavish parties.
"It has the effect of diminishing perhaps the sense that the US is treating these countries with the respect they deserve," Pickering said.
Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), which represents career US diplomats, added: "The giving of ambassadorships to people who have raised a lot of money for the campaign has increased and that's a concern to us in particular.
"There was some thought that with Obama being such a 'change agent' that he might really do things differently – but it has just been a bigger let down." Read more via The Guardian...