As money in politics becomes an increasingly influential component of elections, donors have utilized it as a way to secure access, favors, and highly coveted positions. And while the practice of rewarding wealthy campaign donors with ambassador positions is hardly new, it shows no sign of abating under a Trump administration that came into power on promises to drain the swamp.
So far, Trump has made 55 total appointments, over half of which were political favors to loyalists and donors. The number of vacancies in his administration still outnumber the nominations he’s made.
Robert Wood Johnson IV was appointed to U.S. Ambassador to the UK. He donated $100,000 to Trump’s Victory Fund, hosted a fundraiser at his home and co-hosted at least six fundraisers for Trump.
Kelly Knight Craft, a Republican fundraiser who donated over $250,000 to Trump’s Victory Fund, was appointed U.S.Ambassador to Canada
Co-founder of Mar-A-Lago resort Robin Bernstein was nominated as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, though she can’t speak Spanish.
Goldman Sachs alum Lewis Eisenberg served as Finance Chair of the Trump Victory Fund, and donated $35,800 to it. He was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Italy and San Marino.
George Edward Glass donated $77,500 to the Trump Victory Fund. He was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Portugal.
Real Estate Developer Doug Manchester gave $449,400 to the Trump Victory Fund; he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas.
Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, donated $100,000 to his Inauguration and $5400 to his campaign.
William Robert Kohorst donated $194,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. He was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Croatia.
The Tennessee Finance Chair for Trump’s Victory Fund, William F. Hagerty, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Japan. He gave the maximum allowable donation to the Trump Victory Fund and Trump’s Campaign. His wife, Christine, donated the same amounts.
Georgia based attorney James Randolph Evans, Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, donated $25,000 to the Trump Victory Fund.
Former co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jamie McCourt, donated over $400,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. She was appointed U.S. Ambassador to France and Monaco.
Edward T. McMullen Jr. was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechenstein. He served as South Carolina Director for the Trump Campaign,
Richard Duke Buchan III was one of Trump’s earliest Wall Street supporters, donating $898,000 with his wife to Trump’s Victory Fund in May 2016. He was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Spain & Andorra.
Vice Chair of the Trump Victory Fund, Ray Washburne, a Dallas-based real estate investor, was appointed President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a government agency in charge of directing private capital into the developing world. Washburne and his wife, Heather, have been prolific Republican donors, giving over $500,000 the past three election cycles.
Trump’s cabinet appointments have reflected a similar trend in rewarding wealthy donors based on their contributions and loyalty rather than their merit. One of the most notable wealthy donors to receive a nomination was Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, whose family has donated around $200 million to the Republican Party. The DeVos family gave $210,000 to the Trump Victory Fund. Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was a major bondholder of Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino who helped him negotiate a bankruptcy to save it. Ross also gave Trump a donation of $200,000 to his victory fund. Trump’s Secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, served as his campaign’s finance chair and donated $425,000 to the Trump Victory Fund and $5,400 to Trump’s campaign. Administrator of the Small Business Administration, Linda McMahon, donated over $7 million to pro-Trump Super PACs and the Trump Victory Fund.
The officials Trump has stacked throughout his administration are a recipe for corruption. They reflect the same brand of elitism Trump has exploited throughout his career, breaking weakly enforced laws with impunity and circumventing others through loopholes to boost their own power and wealth. Even though the malfeasance of Trump’s nominees and appointments are in full view, they receive a free pass because others before them have set the precedent to get away with it.
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