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  Big Donors Will Still Get Some Sweet Embassy Spots
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Last EditedScottĀ³  Apr 09, 2009 01:45pm
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MediaNewspaper - Washington Post
News DateThursday, April 9, 2009 07:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionWashington Post

"There's been much talk that, for all the talk about change, the Obama administration has not always been making radical departures from traditional ways of governing. For example, President Obama has not strayed all that far from the Bush administration's foreign policies.

And based on some early signals, that seems to be the case when it comes to the venerable tradition of rewarding mega-contributors and pals with fine ambassadorships in excellent locations such as Rome, London, Paris and Madrid. (Traditionally 30 percent of the 160 or so envoy positions are political picks, while the rest go to career Foreign Service officers.)

The Obama folks have indicated they were going to at least limit the number of such "vanity" or "cash-only" ambassadors and maybe even try to send emissaries who are not completely clueless. But the buzz is that big donors and bundlers won't be shut out.

The basic list actually has been pretty much set for a while. The plan apparently is to roll out the nominees in a bundle, so to speak, slipping the truly wealthy in with the truly competent. That might be one reason few ambassador picks have been announced -- vetting the super-rich can be time-consuming.

The Clinton administration tended to favor a "cash-plus" approach, in which big donor Democrats often had a modicum of knowledge of the languages or issues in the countries to which they were sent.

Until the full list comes out, it's unclear what Obama's overall policy will be, but some of the names circulating for plum posts include several who have contributed or bundled to the campaign or the inaugural or the Democratic Party some very serious money.

We've reported the chatter about a London posting for Louis Susman of Chicago, an early supporter who, with his wife, gave $106,500 to Obama-related committees, though he bundled only between $200,000 and $500,000 for the campaign. Charlie Rivkin, former Jim Henson Co. chief and an executive produ
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