Who Wants to be an Ambassador? Just Raise $500,000 for Obama and You’re It!

Who Wants to be an Ambassador? Just Raise $500,000 for Obama and You're It!Public Domain
How do you fund a presidential campaign without a Super PAC? Well if you’re President Barrack Obama and it’s 2008, you offer sweet government jobs to your biggest bundlers. And by sweet government jobs, we ain’t talking about 4 hour lunch breaks at the DMV. No, no. We’re talking about cushy foreign ambassadorships in places like Finland, Australia, Portugal, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Bahamas, and Liechtenstein. Yeah, Liechtenstein! I know, right?

It turns out that of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers (those who collected $500,000 or more for his campaign), 24 were given posts as foreign ambassadors.

Two however stand out as the poster-children for why we shouldn’t give ambassadorships to just anyone.

Poster child number one: Former Vice President of Interior Music Publishing, Nicole A. Avant was U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas until November 2011, when she resigned. Why did she resign you ask? She resigned because she didn’t like the whole “ambassadoring” part of the job.

See between September 2009 and November 2011 Avant was MIA from the embassy 276 days claiming 102 “personal” days and 77 “work travel” days to the United States, of which only 23 were on official orders. So really, she resigned before she even started.

And now according to the Office of Inspector General:

The embassy is recovering from an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement, which has caused problems throughout the embassy. Programs such as entry- level officer mentoring, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), and the Federal Women’s Program floundered. Critical security upgrades in embassy housing were not made, and the U.S. Government paid rent for 2 years on a vacant consular agency office in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Lovely. But that’s not all.

Post child number two: Cynthia Stroum, a Seattle venture capitalist who raised $500,000 for Obama, and now former Ambassador to Luxembourg was taken to task by the Office of Inspector General. This time, though, it appears Ms. Stroum was really into the mega-bitch-like high one gets from a newly minted ambassadorship.

According to her write up from the Office of Inspector General:

The Ambassador’s confrontational management style, chronic gaps in senior and other staffing caused by curtailments, and the absence of a sense of direction have brought major elements of Embassy Luxembourg to a state of dysfunction. These curtailments entail considerable costs to the U.S. Government. Morale among Americans and local staff is very low, and stress levels are high. Most employees describe the Ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating, which has resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy, and uncertain work environment.

If that weren’t enough, Ms. Stroum apparently hates having too much room to sleep. She hates it so much so that she wants you and me to pay for it. And I totally know what she means. Don’t you hate it when you roll over at night on a super cushy, plush, luxurious, king-sized bed only to find more bed? God that’s horrible! There should be a law!

Well, Ms. Stroum sure wasn’t having it:

The Ambassador purchased a new queen-size bed and box springs shortly after arriving in Luxembourg. The OIG team was told that the Ambassador was not pleased with the condition of the CMR mattress, and preferred a queen bed to the king-size bed already provided. … The embassy sought OBO approval to reimburse the Ambassador for the mattress purchase first in December 2009 and again in August 2010. On both occasions, [the OBO] would not reimburse this purchase, as the queen-size mattress was a personal choice.

Despite this guidance, the acting DCM in October 2010 certified a voucher reimbursing the Ambassador for the cost of the mattress out of program funds.

I got your voucher right here! Did I type that out loud?

Anyway, what have we learned from all of this? Nothing evidently:

This appraisal will not be news to the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR), which has been forthcoming about its concerns regarding management issues at Embassy Luxembourg.

It is unfortunate that an impression is being created among officers and local employees at this mission that this kind of behavior may be routinely tolerated by Department of State (Department) leadership, particularly for noncareer ambassadors.

Although OIG is referring specifically to Luxembourg, I hear a faint, “Enough with the friggin’ noncareer ambassadors, already!”

About Deborah Brancheau

Deborah Brancheau is the Managing Editor of RestoringTruthiness.org, a political comedy website inspired by the political satire of Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Deborah's background is a smörgåsbord of experience. With a bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Theatre and a Minor in Cinema/Television, and a Master's Degree in Communication from the University of Southern California, Deborah took her heavily student-loan-funded education and became a sports-writing, high-school-teaching, graphic-designing, university-professing, broke-bum bastard. When that didn't work out too well, she refunneled her expertise into this new venture, RestoringTruthiness.org.