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“That would allow a select number of distinguished citizens to go out as envoys, while ending the unchecked spoils system under which scores of political activists are tapped for critical national security positions for which they are unqualified,” association spokesman Tom Switzer said.

The organization has been concerned about the appointments for years. In a 2006 article for the association’s newsletter, the group’s acting president, Steve Kashkett, called the practice an example of “the great American patronage system.”

In a report called “Checkbook Diplomacy,” the Center for Public Integrity traced the practice of presidents sending political supporters overseas all the way back to Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

While noting that many excellent ambassadors have been among the political appointees, the center found abuses as well. The center quoted President Nixon as saying, “My point is that anybody who wants to be an ambassador must give at least $250,000. … The contributors have to be, I mean, a big thing.”