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January 31, 2021
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Axios

Biden tempers expectations for high-dollar donors who hoped to get plum diplomatic posts

President Biden is tempering the ambassadorial expectations of his big-dollar donors, signaling he won’t hand out plum posts for months and hinting he’ll nominate fewer of them than his predecessors. The big picture: The president embraced the Democratic Party’s push for diversity when choosing his Cabinet. Now lawmakers are pressuring him to extend it to his ambassador picks, meaning white male donors — the core of his fundraiser base — will be in serious competition for fewer spots.Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.What we are hearing: Biden is most likely to reward loyal politicians and former aides, with talk about former senators like Claire McCaskill headed for a gilded post in Europe. * On the policy-makers front, Julianne Smith, a former Biden aide, could be nominated as ambassador to NATO. * In the donor class, Denise Bauer, Obama’s ambassador to Belgium, was a top fundraiser. She could return to Europe, possibly Paris, among the most coveted positions. * Doug Hickey, another big Biden donor, also is interested in a foreign posting. * James Costos, a former HBO executive who served as Obama’s ambassador to Spain, has expressed interest in the United Kingdom, but many others are interested, including David Cohen, a Comcast executive. * Louis Frillman, a real estate investor, and Nathalie Rayes, president of the Latino Victory Project, have told associates they’re interested in Madrid or another European post.The big question: The ambassadorship to China has recently gone to former politicians, giving Beijing the prestige of a big-branded name and the White House the comfort that its envoy will have a political antenna to detect any potential problems. * If Biden names Disney executive chairman Robert Iger, who has told Biden officials he’s interested, it would break that mold.Biden is scheduled, weather permitting, to visit the State Department on Monday, a symbolic showing as he seeks to re-invigorate diplomacy and underscore America’s commitment to allies and partners. He’s also expected to deliver remarks about his foreign policy initiatives. * While the president certainly will name some donors to top posts, others are getting nervous they’ll be passed over and are feverishly pressing their cases. * While more than 800 individuals and couples raised more than $100,000 for Biden’s presidential bid, the more elite group of “bundlers” raised well above that amount and also gave the maximum of $620,000 to the Biden Victory Fund.By the numbers: Biden will likely make non-career nominations for about 30% of the roughly 190 total ambassadorships, leaving 70% for the career Foreign Service, according to people familiar with the matter. * That 70:30 ratio would be in line with the traditional breakdown, according to the American Foreign Service Association. * President Trump deviated by nominating political ambassadors for about 44% of his appointments. * Trump’s nominees also skewed heavily non-diverse, with more than 90% of his openings going to those who are white, Foreign Policy reported in 2018.Go deeper: The political category has always been divided, broadly, into three buckets: policy experts, politicians and donors. * Biden is expected to draw more heavily from the first two categories, leaving fewer positions for donors looking to cap a successful business career with a foreign posting. * Biden has a sprawling network of Beltway friends and allies but was never that successful — or reliant — on the money and celebrity classes in New York and California.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.

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