He may have promised to change Washington, but President Barack Obama is continuing one of its most renowned patronage traditions: bestowing prized ambassadorships on big donors.
Of the nearly 80 ambassadorship nominations or confirmations since Obama’s Inauguration, 56 percent were given to political appointees and 44 percent have gone to career diplomats, according to records kept by the American Foreign Service Association.
The latest nomination came this week, when Beatrice Wilkinson Welters was nominated to serve as ambassador to the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.
Welters, a longtime advocate for underprivileged children, and her husband, Anthony, an executive with UnitedHealth Group
, generated between $200,000 and $500,000 in donations to Obama’s presidential campaign and an additional $100,000 for his Inauguration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political giving.
The Welters can be counted among the nearly two dozen Obama bundlers — fundraisers who together organized and solicited more than $10 million in donations during the 2008 campaign — who now are being dispatched to some of the world’s greatest cities.
Charles H. Rivkin, a Los Angeles-based children’s television executive and an $800,000 bundler, is in Paris; Alan Solomont, a Boston-based investor and $500,000 bundler, is in Madrid; Louis B. Susman, a Chicago investor and $500,000 bundler, is in London; and Don Beyer, a Virginia Volvo dealer and $745,000 bundler, is in Bern, Switzerland.
Nicole Avant, a member of a Motown family dynasty who is credited with bundling up to $800,000 for Obama, was granted the coveted and cushy ambassadorship in Nassau, Bahamas.