- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

President Obama elevated another big donor to a plum ambassadorship Thursday, nominating former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald S. Beyer to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland.

Mr. Beyer, a Democrat now best known locally for his Volvo dealership, was a key early backer of the Obama campaign when it appeared to be an underdog.

The Democrat, an Alexandria resident, bundled more than $500,000 in donations from others for the Obama campaign, and also contributed the maximum allowed personally — $4,600. He also campaigned for Mr. Obama during both the primary and general election.

Mr. Beyer served as lieutenant governor from 1990 to 1998, and has served on several boards and philanthropic enterprises. He lost the race for governor against Republican James S. Gilmore III in 1997.

Political consultant and Democratic National Committee member Mame Reiley predicted last fall Mr. Beyer could be nominated for the Obama Cabinet or get a prime ambassador post.

“He really did a great job for Obama,” she said.

The appointment of Mr. Beyer to the Swiss post, which also includes representing U.S. interests in the tiny Alpine principality of Liechtenstein, comes following a string of political pals getting top positions abroad, a customary practice for presidents. The nominations are subject to Senate confirmation.

Mr. Obama announced nine other U.S. ambassador nominations Thursday: Pamela J. H. Slutz to Burundi, Gordon Gray to Tunisia, Richard J. Schmierer to Oman, Martha L. Campbell to the Marshall Islands, Alfonso E. Lenhardt to Tanzania, Mark Gitenstein to Romania, Howard W. Gutman to Belgium, Vinai Thummalapally to Belize, and John Nay to Suriname.

Mr. Gutman raised at least $500,000 for the Obama campaign. Mr. Thummalapally raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Gitenstein, however, was a donor to Mr. Obama’s Democratic primary rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The president said the country is “fortunate to have these distinguished men and women as their representatives abroad.” and said they will help “strengthen America’s partnerships around the world and confront the challenges of the 21st century.”