Dollar Diplomacy

Want an ambassadorship? Make the check payable to the White House.

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 12:00 AM PDT

Past presidents have made a tradition of rewarding top donors, longtime friends, and loyalists with cushy ambassadorships in desirable locales—and George W. Bush certainly took to this practice with gusto. Of the more than 120 overseas postings he has filled to date, nearly half have gone to "Pioneers" or "Rangers" who've contributed $100,000 or $200,000, respectively, to his campaigns. Meet some of Bush's big-dollar diplomats:

Mary Ourisman, Ambassador to Barbados, 2006-Present
MO: Washington socialite best known for hosting charity galas and serving on the "decorating committee" of Blair House, the president's guest quarters for foreign heads of state.
Patronage: Along with her husband, the owner of one of the DC area's biggest car dealerships, she has donated nearly half a million dollars to GOP candidates and causes since 1999.

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Richard Egan, Ambassador to Ireland, 2001-2003
MO: The billionaire founder of technology company EMC was caught investing $62 million in a sham Irish tax shelter, which the IRS later seized.
Patronage: Pioneer (2000), Ranger (2004)

Roland Arnall, Ambassador to the Netherlands, 2006-2008
MO: The late founder of Ameriquest Capital Corp., his company faced investigations in 30 states over its predatory lending practices at the time of his nomination in 2005.
Patronage: Ranger (2004)

James Nicholson, Ambassador to the Holy See (Vatican), 2001-2005
MO: The former GOP chairman and one-time VA secretary was accused of violating State Department regs by throwing lavish embassy parties and hitting up private businesses to pay for them.
Patronage: Pioneer (2000), Ranger (2004)

George Argyros, Ambassador to Spain, 2001-2004
MO: The billionaire real estate magnate—and notorious slum lord—was accused of defrauding thousands of low-income residents in California.
Patronage: Pioneer; donated $100,000 to Bush's first inaugural.

William Farish III, Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 2001-2004
MO: The horse breeder's tenure in the UK—he took the job as a "working sabbatical"—was notable only for his conspicuous absence during the run-up to the Iraq War. "It's probably easier to get an interview with Saddam Hussein than with William Farrish," a Guardian columnist wrote on the eve of the war.
Patronage: Donated $100,000 for Bush's inaugural.

Robert Tuttle, Ambassador to the United Kingdom, 2005-Present
MO: Dubbed a "chiseling little crook" by London's mayor, the California car dealer refused to pay the $3.9 million the embassy owed in congestion charges for driving in central London.
Patronage: Pioneer

Sam Fox, Ambassador to Belgium, 2007-Present
MO: The Missouri businessman's $50,000 donation to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 election came back to haunt him when John Kerry got a crack at questioning him during his February 2007 confirmation hearing. "I've always been against 527s," he told the senator, whose presidential bid he helped end by funding one.
Patronage: Pioneer (2000), Ranger (2004)

Robert Jordan, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 2001-2003
MO: The Texas lawyer represented Bush during an SEC investigation into allegations of insider trading at Harken Energy.
Patronage: Pioneer (2000)

Mercer Reynolds III, Ambassador to Switzerland, 2001-2003
MO: The businessman helped bail out Bush's failed Texas oil company and later went in with him as an investor on the Texas Rangers franchise. He also served as the Bush/Cheney Ohio finance chair in 2000 and national finance chair in 2004.
Patronage: Ranger (and then some)

Source: Center for Public Integrity

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