Pay-to-Play in DC as Biden Picks Loyal Donors for Top Diplomat Spots

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 // Research

Joe Biden’s summer tranche of nominees to fill positions in the highest levels of the US government is flush with political donors and loyal allies. The American Accountability Foundation reviewed 22 individuals nominated to be Ambassadors for diplomatically critical appointments and found all but a few going to political loyalists, mega donors, defectors, and campaign bundlers.

Biden continues to reward his faithful donors with lush foreign policy positions. Of the names reviewed, there was a combined total of just over $3.2 million in political donations given by the nominees to the Democratic Party.

Also, among the nominees is noted never-Trumper and former Republican Senator Jeff Flake who is currently pending a hearing in the Foreign Relations Committee to be the diplomat to Turkey.

Flake endorsed Joe Biden for President in August 2020 after resigning the prior year due to an extremely low 18% approval rating in Arizona compared to 44% approval rating of President Trump among those surveyed. Flake and Cindy McCain, outspoken critics of President Trump throughout his Presidency, both ran afoul of the Arizona Republican party and were censured for crossing party lines with their endorsement of Joe Biden in the 2020 election, among other grievances.

According to data by the American Foreign Service Association (updated Aug. 26, 2021), Biden nominated or filled 54% of the ambassadorial positions with political appointees ahead of their career counterparts. This number is considered extremely high with historical numbers of political appointments to these influential diplomatic posts averaging around 33% compared around 66% given to career members of the Foreign Service.

In one example, Biden selected a politically loyal financier to manage the situation between Israel and Palestine as tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East.

Banker and mega-donor Thomas Nides, Biden’s nominee as Ambassador to Israel, maintains a history of donating massive sums of money to the Democratic Party. In fact, he’s directly donated nearly $200,000 to 19 current sitting Democrat Senators who are responsible for voting to confirm Nides to his post. These Senators include Gary Peters, Bob Casey, Maria Cantwell, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy, Jacky Rosen, Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Michael Bennet, Mark Warner, Cory Booker, Diane Feinstein, Chris Van Hollen, Ed Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren.

In addition to his contributions to sitting Democrat Senators, Nides also gave over $180,000 to the Morgan Stanley PAC which sent tens of thousands of dollars in support to the DCC and other left wing political action committees. PACs such as Equality and AMERIPAC: The Fund for a Greater America, the latter run by current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, give almost, if not exclusively to the Democratic Party. In October of 2020, AMERIPAC gave $75,000 to the Biden Victory Fund and in November of 2020, gave $5,000 to both Democrats in the Georgia Senate runoff.

Other nominees selected to be envoys are scandal ridden Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Biden campaign bundlers Denise Bauer and Claire Cronin.

Garcetti came under tremendous criticism for his mishandling of the homeless problem in LA in addition to senior staff being investigated for pay-to-play real estate bribes. Federal prosecutors brought charges against Garcetti’s former deputy mayor for conspiracy and bribery charges. Another senior aide to Garcetti left the office after charges of sexual misconduct were filed against him. Biden receives a party loyalist with the nomination of Garcetti to be ambassador to India while America receives a scandal embroiled mayor running from his blunders and poor management.

We have already witnessed senior posts in American government given to the well-connected like when Biden gave Senator Joe Manchin’s wife a $163,000 a year job on the Appalachian Regional Commission. Prior to his wife’s appointment, Manchin was seen as the holdout for many progressive initiatives such as removing the filibuster and the controversial Equality Act while the Democrats maintain an incredibly thin majority in the Senate.

When senior government posts are given to family members of sitting members of Congress in a presumptive exchange for their voting card, it makes sense that loyal campaign bundlers (individuals who collect thousands of dollars in contributions and deliver them to campaigns) are rewarded with high-ranking positions as well.

Denise Bauer and Claire Cronin are two examples of bundlers rewarded for bringing in the big bucks in a campaign cycle. Bundled donations are not required to be publicly disclosed so there is no way to know the exact amount they delivered to the campaign. The fact that Cronin is nominated to be ambassador to Ireland and Bauer nominated as ambassador to France suggests they raised quite a lot for Biden, or at the very least are loyal foot soldiers to the party.

This isn’t Denise Bauer’s first time on the fundraising circuit. For her role in raising $4,367,187 as a bundler for Barack Obama from 2007-2012, Bauer was given the diplomatic post in Belgium in Barack Obama’s administration. Along with raising some serious cash for Biden, Bauer was also the Executive Director of Women for Biden. Bauer is responsible for bringing millions to Democrat Presidential candidates and in return has been repaid with two top diplomatic positions abroad.

Biden rewards top jobs to political loyalists who donated thousands, if not millions of dollars to his political campaign and party. These critical positions are supposed to be filled with individuals who will represent America’s interests abroad. Putting the most qualified into positions to benefit millions of Americans seems to be secondary over rewarding political fundraisers. We hope Senators, including those who have received contributions from some of the nominees, will seek to confirm nominees to these important positions who are qualified and will put America’s interests first.