The tradition of rewarding mega-donors and fundraisers with fine ambassadorships goes back scores of years and through many presidencies.
Wednesday’s report that President Obama intends to name major contributor Bruce Heyman to be ambassador to Canada is hardly an exception. He would replace another Chicagoan and major 2008 campaign fundraiser David Jacobson.
Many major contributors, we understand, were called after the election and asked if “they might want to serve” in the administration. Somewhere overseas, perhaps?
But sometimes embassies are straight-up bought before an election, a Loop Fan reminded us after seeing an item on Obama’s selection of Caroline Kennedy for Japan that referred to President Richard M. Nixon’s thoughts on ambassadorial appointments.
There was the delightful case of Ruth Farkas, our reader reminded us, Nixon’s ambassador to Luxembourg. Nixon’s lawyer, Herbert Kalmbach, testified under oath in 1974 that a senior Nixon aide asked him in 1971 to call Farkas, whose husband owned a clothing store chain.
“She is interested in giving $250,000 for Costa Rica,” Kalmbach said the aide told him, according to an account in the New Republic by our colleague Walter Pincus. (That was a huge amount to contribute in those days.)
Kalmbach said he met with Farkas and she had said “words to the following effect: She said, ‘Well, you know, I am interested in Europe, I think, and isn’t $250,000 an awful lot of money for Costa Rica?’ ”
Farkas donated $300,000 to the reelection campaign and ended up in Luxembourg. She may have thought she paid too much for that tiny country, but apparently she did a fine job there.