Remember when Barack Obama was going to clean up Washington by eliminating the cycle of donors getting special access and jobs in the federal government?
Hope and Change Good times, good times. Although this is no longer news — we’ve written about Obama’s bundler-employment program for months, as well as his pipeline for stimulus cash to their businesses — the Washington Post discovers that Obama hasn’t really cleaned up this one-horse town after all:
Big donors considering whether to work the phones raising money for President Obama’s reelection campaign might consider the fate of his 2008 bundlers. Many of them, it turns out, won plum jobs in his administration.
Obama campaigned on what he called “the most sweeping ethics reform in history” and has frequently criticized the role of money in politics. That hasn’t stopped him from offering government jobs to some of his biggest bundlers, volunteer fundraisers who gather political contributions from other rich donors.
More than half of Obama’s 47 biggest fundraisers, those who collected at least $500,000 for his campaign, have been given administration jobs. Nine more have been appointed to presidential boards and committees.
At least 24 Obama bundlers were given posts as foreign ambassadors, including in Finland, Australia, Portugal and Luxembourg. Among them is Don Beyer, a former Virginia lieutenant governor who serves as ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Hey, Obama didn’t invent this mechanism. Patronage jobs go waaaaaay back, of course, and there’s nothing to indicate Obama has been any worse on this score than previous Democratic or Republican presidents (although the manipulation of government cash is an entirely different question). However, Obama ran on changing the culture in Washington and specifically against this very practice, and so it’s hardly unfair to point out his hypocrisy.
Will that continue with a Republican president? Heck, it will obviously continue if Obama gets re-elected, but it’s safe to assume that the answer to that question is yes. However, it’s also likely that even patronage appointments will improve in quality, if not decline in quantity:
Obama hired bundler Steve Spinner as a liaison in the Energy Department. According to internal e-mails turned over in a congressional investigation, Spinner pressed for staff members to finalize a government loan for Solyndra, the now-shuttered solar company in which another campaign bundler was a major investor. Spinner, according to the Obama administration, did not make any decisions affecting Solyndra. …
Nicole Avant, a music industry executive who raised at least $500,000, served as ambassador to the Bahamas until November. The inspector general wrote that her tenure was part of “an extended period of dysfunctional leadership and mismanagement, which has caused problems throughout the embassy.” The report said Avant spent roughly 40 percent of her time out of the country over a two-year period. …
Luxembourg Ambassador Cynthia Stroum, a Seattle venture capitalist who raised $500,000 for Obama, was also criticized in an inspector general’s report, which said she sent her staff on a house-hunting mission, billed the government for bedding after being told she couldn’t and was “keenly interested” in the materials used for remodeling two bathrooms in her residence.
“Most employees describe the ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile, and intimidating,” inspectors wrote of Stroum.
Avant went back to bundling, and Stroum got replaced … by another bundler.
The Washington Post is a little late to the party (Politico had this in June 2011, for instance), but at least they didn’t wait until December 2012 to notice. That’s better than business as usual for the media in the Obama era.
Update: The Washington Post doesn’t watch ABC News, either. They had two written reports on this subject in mid-June 2011, along with Politico. Thanks to Jake Tapper for the reminder, who also recalls doing a World News Tonight segment on the story but can’t find it at the moment.
Update II: Jake comes through with the World News segment from June 15, 2011:
I’m grateful that the Post caught up to this story, but a scoop it ain’t.