Obama nominates campaign fundraiser as ambassador to France
Jane Hartley one of more than two dozen bundlers elevated by president
Hartley, the chief executive officer of the Observatory Group, an economic and political consultancy, ranks as the 26th elite political fundraiser Obama has tapped for an ambassadorship since his second term began in January 2013.
Collectively, these political rainmakers have raised more than $18.4 million for Obama over the years, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of federal records. Hartley herself has raised at least $820,000.
The Obama campaign did not reveal the exact amount of money its bundlers raised, only offering broad ranges.
Hartley, for instance, was credited with raising more than $500,000 for Obama's 2012 re-election efforts, and between $200,000 and $500,000 for his 2008 campaign. She also bundled $120,000 for Obama's 2009 inauguration.
But documents leaked to the New York Times indicate she actually raised more than $2.2 million for Obama since 2007, including about $1.4 million during his 2012 campaign.
Individuals who raise funds from family members, friends or business associates are known as "bundlers," and they are often rewarded by campaigns with special access and other perks.
By law, only lobbyists who bundle campaign contributions are required to be disclosed — although Obama listed all of his bundlers who raised at least $50,000 during both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
Hartley, who also previously worked in the White House during the Carter administration, is the first bundler to be elevated for a posh diplomatic post since March, when Obama selected attorney Andrew Schapiro to be the next ambassador to the Czech Republic.
In the meantime, Obama quietly named more than a dozen career United States Foreign Service officers to ambassadorships in far-flung nations such as Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and Paraguay.
For years, both Democratic and Republican presidents have awarded some plumb ambassadorships to top campaign bundlers.
But this year, Obama, who since 2013 has almost exclusively nominated bundlers or other political backers to posts in western and central Europe, has increasingly drawn fire for the practice.
In February, several of his nominees with fundraising backgrounds demonstrated little experience with, or knowledge of, the countries where they may soon represent U.S. interests.
After one — George Tsunis, a hotel magnate and campaign bundler who Obama had nominated as the next ambassador to Norway — bungled several responses to questions during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats from Minnesota, announced plans to oppose him. Minnesota is home to the largest population of Norwegian-Americans.
All the while, the American Foreign Service Association, the main trade group and labor union for career foreign service officers, issued new guidance on the characteristics and skills a good ambassador should possess. In April, the group also announced the State Department would begin publishing nominees' qualifications online.
The U.S. Senate must confirm each of Obama's ambassador picks.
Reprinted by permission of The Center for Public Integrity.