Skip to navigationSkip to content

Ideas

Our home for bold arguments and big thinkers.

Quartz
PRICETAG POLITICS

So you want to be a US ambassador? Here’s what it will cost you

Jake Flanagin
By Jake Flanagin

Reporter

Ambassadors are a mixed bag. Some are unquestionably qualified for their posts. Take John F. Tefft, US ambassador to the Russian Federation, for example: prior to his arrival in Moscow, Tefft was not only the chargé d’affaires in Russia, but an ambassador to a slew of its neighbors—Ukraine, Georgia, and Lithuania—and deputy US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.

Others, not so much. The appointment of Colleen Bell to the ambassadorship of Hungary has been a point of contention in this regard. Bell produced The Bold and the Beautiful, a soap opera that has won 40 Daytime Emmys, which is great, but hardly requires a particular knowledge of Central European culture, languages, or politics. Bell, however, was a major fundraiser for president Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, and—as part of a long, storied tradition of rewarding top supporters with plum ambassadorial gigs—she has been recompensed accordingly.

Bell is not alone. In fact, based on a report compiled by The New York Times, many of Obama’s top campaign fundraisers have received fancy diplomatic appointments, likely to the consternation of a few State Department lifers, bouncing between placements in Armenia, Fiji, and Nepal.

Here, Quartz has compiled a list of recent appointments graded by how much money each ambassador raised for the 2012 Obama campaign:

  1. Denise Bauer, US ambassador to Belgium: $2,360,300
  2. Matthew Barzun, US ambassador to the United Kingdom: $2,312,509
  3. Colleen Bell, US ambassador to Hungary: $2,101,635
  4. Rob Barber, US ambassador to Iceland: $1,687,219
  5. John Emerson, US ambassador to Germany: $1,562,350
  6. Suzi LeVine, US ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein: $1,515,493
  7. Robert Sherman, US ambassador to Portugal: $1,386,770
  8. Noah Mamet, US ambassador to Argentina: $1,374,003
  9. Jane Hartley, US ambassador to France and Monaco: $1,353,200
  10. Mark Gilbert, US ambassador to New Zealand: $1,232,988
  11. James Costos, US ambassador to Spain and Andorra: $1,124,925
  12. James Brewster, US ambassador to the Dominican Republic: $1,121,027
  13. Kirk Wagar, US ambassador to Singapore (not mapped): $1,117,000
  14. Bruce Heyman, US ambassador to Canada: $1,012,800
  15. Pam Hamamoto, US ambassador to UN headquarters in Geneva (not mapped): $1,011,654

And this is what they look like on a map: