Congratulations to Mark Gilbert and Robert Barber, announced on Tuesday as President Obama's picks to act as ambassadors to New Zealand and Iceland respectively. We don't know yet what they'll bring to their new positions. We do, however, know what they brought to Obama: about $1.6 million in bundled contributions over two campaigns. But they could have gotten better countries for less.
There are limits to how much an individual can contribute to a political campaign. So to demonstrate their value to future presidents, wealthy individuals often act as bundlers, committing to raising money from friends and family members in order to donate as much as possible. Gilbert, a former professional baseball player, bundled $500,000 — the maximum — in both 2008 and 2012. Barber gave a little less, only raising $100,000 in 2008.
We pulled data from the American Foreign Service Association and Open Secrets to put together a map of which ambassadorships correlated to the most campaign contributions. A few notes on the map: Gray countries are those represented by career diplomats, not political appointees. (They're listed as '-500000' for technical reasons.) Political appointees that didn't act as bundlers (like Caroline Kennedy) are in the lightest blue; those that gave get increasingly dark blue.
White countries either don't have an American embassy (like Iran) or have vacant ambassadorships. Those in the latter category:
- Saudi Arabia
It's a pretty good list! (Who wouldn't want to spend the winter in the Bahamas?) Of course, your opportunity to make a positive financial impression on the president has probably lapsed, but there's still hope. Like if you went to elementary school with Obama, like Pamela Hamamoto. If she decides to contribute to a political candidate in 2016, she will no longer have to list her occupation as "unemployed." For only $700,000, she now represents the United States at the United Nations in Geneva.
Below, the list of every ambassador and, for political appointees, any bundled contributions in 2008 and 2012, as well as the person's total contributions to candidates over time for each year.