When candidate Barack Obama spoke of change, we thought he meant a new way of doing business, but apparently he also meant coinage. Because President Obama has kept the unsavory tradition of doling out some of the cushiest ambassadorial posts to fundraisers who brought in some of the biggest chunks of change to his campaign. Fifteen of the 62 ambassadors nominated so far were money "bundlers" for the campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, among them Pittsburgh Steelers owner Daniel M. Rooney, retired Chicago investment banker Louis B. Susman and Los Angeles entertainment executive Charles H. Rivkin.
Ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, and presidents from both parties have long exercised their prerogative to name "political appointees" as well as career diplomats to head U.S. missions around the world. In the last half a century, they have done so with 25% to 35% of the ambassadorships (President Carter the former, President Reagan the latter), largely in lovely settings such as London, Paris and the Bahamas. Not all of those went strictly to donors and fundraisers, however. Political appointees have included many experienced public servants, such as former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Sen. Howard Baker Jr., both of whom served in Japan.