- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

President Clinton has quietly installed three new ambassadors, all heavy contributors to the Democratic Party and the Gore campaign, without the consent of the Republican-controlled Senate.
The three are Carl Spielvogel, an advertising executive from New York, as ambassador to Slovakia; James A. Daley, an investor in nursing-home companies and Boston hotels, as ambassador to Barbados; and Robin Chandler Duke, widow of a career diplomat and former president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, as ambassador to Norway.
Collectively, the trio has given $550,900 to Democrats in the past three years, including $24,000 to Vice President Al Gore and $343,000 to the Democratic Party, according to research at the Federal Election Commission by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff.
Mr. Spielvogel held a fund-raiser for Mr. Gore at his Long Island home just days after his appointment.
"At the specific moment that Vice President Gore is trying to distance himself from the corruption of the Clinton administration, here we have President Clinton selling ambassadorships to fund the Gore campaign," said Marc Thiessen, spokesman for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The three new ambassadors were included in a larger package of "recess" appointments released Aug. 3 during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Details of the ambassadorial appointments were lost behind the most controversial appointment on that day, when Mr. Clinton named lawyer Bill Lann Lee to head the civil rights division of the Justice Department despite the Senate's pointed refusal to agree to his nomination in 1997.
"It's the globalization of the Lincoln Bedroom doctrine," Mr. Thiessen said, referring to the Clinton administration's history of allowing political contributors to spend the night at the White House.
Mr. Spielvogel was one of the contributors who spent the night at the White House in the first Clinton administration.
The White House did not return a call for comment yesterday.
The naming of political contributors and allies to ambassadorships and other key posts is not unusual for either political party. It is, however, unusual to do so with less than five months remaining in an administration and to use the recess appointment power to install the nominees.
Mr. Thiessen said committee records show that Presidents Reagan and Bush made a handful of recess appointments of foreign-policy-related officials, but none during the summer before a presidential election. Mr. Reagan made three ambassadorial recess appointments in 1988, but in November, well after the election that confirmed that Vice President George Bush would become the next president.
Under normal constitutional rules, the president must submit nominees to the Senate for approval. If a position becomes vacant while Congress is in recess, however, the president is allowed to make a temporary appointment without Senate approval, which expires at the end of the next session of Congress.
The provision was intended to give the president power to fill a position in an emergency in the days when the Senate was often in recess for months at a time. But presidents have long used the power to get around Senate objections.
Mr. Clinton has repeatedly infuriated congressional Republicans by using recess appointments to install nominees who face Senate disapproval, including Mr. Lee. Last year, he made a recess appointment of meat-packing heir James C. Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Senate conservatives had blocked the nomination, saying it was inappropriate to send Mr. Hormel, a longtime homosexual activist, as ambassador to a conservative Catholic nation.
None of the three new ambassadors has faced similar ideological battles, although Mrs. Duke's work on behalf of abortion rights might have run her afoul of Senate conservatives. Mr. Spielvogel already had won approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, although his nomination stalled on the Senate floor in a completely unrelated dispute between Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, and the administration.
But the three appointments were held up in a larger dispute between the White House and the Senate. Republicans are unwilling to confirm appointments for judges and other key positions so late in a presidential term and in the face of a competitive presidential election.
"If [Republican nominee George W.] Bush is elected, these people will serve in office only five months, at enormous cost to the taxpayers," Mr. Thiessen said.
The Foreign Relations Committee estimates, based on State Department figures, that installing a new ambassador costs an average of $34,000 in moving costs.

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