UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 29, 2009

PAY FOR PLAY CONTINUES UNDER OBAMA

Bloomberg - Louis Susman has one thing in common with many of his predecessors nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom: money.

Susman, 71, a retired Citigroup Inc. senior investment banker, raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for President Barack Obama's presidential campaign and another $300,000 for his inauguration. Obama nominated Susman to the post formally known as the Court of St. James.

Like Andrew Mellon, Joseph Kennedy and Walter Annenberg before him, Susman's credentials stem more from involvement in financing party politics than foreign policy experience.

Obama is following the tradition of his predecessors by offering some ambassadorships to top campaign backers, including four of the 12 nominations this week. The president acknowledged in a news conference in January that donors might get plum postings.

"The practice of rewarding donors is a remnant of the spoils system that we abolished in the civil service," said career diplomat Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy and a former ambassador to Afghanistan. "It is a dismal testimony to the importance of money in our electoral system. That said, the republic will survive the president selling a few embassies."

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