President Obama’s choice for US Ambassador to Hungary is raising eyebrows. His choice, Colleen Bell, is a television producer most famous for the daytime soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Bell appears to have no particular experience with or knowledge of the nation of Hungary. But what she lacks in knowledge and experience seems to be made up for in campaign contributions.
In 2008, Bell contributed $63,900 to the president. During the following election in 2012, she contributed $102,400, and bundled more than $500,000 on top of that. In addition, she and her husband, Bradley, held a re-election fundraiser for Obama at their home in Los Angeles last year, which the president attended.
Was that money a bribe? Is this appointment as ambassador a political reward for Bell’s campaign contributions?
There does not seem to be much of an alternative explanation. And when the Bell appointment is compared with other ambassadors Obama has appointed a disturbing trend emerges.
U.S. presidents have long rewarded big campaign donors, fundraisers and other loyalists with ambassadorships, and Democratic President Barack Obama seems to be no exception. Yesterday, he officially announced his intent to nominate a dozen individuals to ambassadorships around the globe. That list included a handful of career Foreign Service officers, but it also included several big contributors and bundlers, who, along with their spouses, have given nearly $1 million almost exclusively to Democrats since the 1990 election cycle. These donations include $34,600 to Obama himself, on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars they steered toward Obama’s presidential campaign and inauguration committees as bundlers.
Hope and change? More like pay to play.
This kind of corruption is dangerous. An ambassador is not a figurehead, they are the United States’ representative abroad and are granted authority (and immunity) to operate on behalf of all of us. Just because someone can produce a soap opera and write a check does not mean they can competently represent the country on the international stage.
Selling ambassadorships is not only venal but reckless.
Photo by SGR Gemini under Creative Commons license.