- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

Gore's ambassadors

If Al Gore is elected president, would he impose the same restriction on himself that he tried to inflict on President Bush to limit the number of campaign contributors appointed as ambassadors?

That is the question Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are asking.

Mr. Gore, when he was a senator from Tennessee in 1989, proposed a ratio of 15 percent of political appointees to professional diplomats named to ambassadorships.

That was roughly half of the number routinely named by Republican and Democratic presidents alike.

Mr. Gore complained that the percentage reached 40 percent under President Bush.

His proposal, which was later amended to a 30 percent ratio, was defeated with bipartisan opposition.

The percentage of campaign contributors named by President Clinton has been as high as 36 percent. It now stands at about 34 percent.

Marc Thiessen, spokesman for the Republican majority on the committee, noted that Mr. Gore, as vice president, appears to have abandoned his call to end what he once described as a "degrading spectacle."

Mr. Thiessen said Mr. Gore was silent when Mr. Clinton appointed three campaign contributors as ambassadors last month while Congress was on recess, thus avoiding the Senate confirmation process.

They contributed a total of $550,900 to Democrats, including $24,000 to Mr. Gore, since 1997, Mr. Thiessen said.

One of the three new ambassadors, Carl Spielvogel, hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Gore three days after he was appointed as envoy to the Slovak Republic. That event raised $250,000 for Mr. Gore's presidential campaign.

"Despite Mr. Gore's self-righteous denouncement of political spoils for big donors, the Clinton-Gore administration have proved themselves masters of the game," Mr. Thiessen said in a statement.

The Gore campaign yesterday did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The issue of campaign contributors becoming ambassadors has long been a complaint of career diplomats, who frequently lose the best posts to political appointees.

Marshall Adair, president of the American Foreign Service Association, yesterday said a 15 percent ratio would be an "excellent" cap, but he doubted any president would impose such a limit.

Mr. Adair, whose organization represents professional diplomats, said, "This nation needs absolutely the best possible representation we can get around the world."

"A very reasonable cap would be 20 [percent] to 25 percent," he said.

When Mr. Gore raised the issue 11 years ago, he said, "No other country in the world uses the system of campaign contributions as the way of determining who is going to receive important ambassadorial appointments or important appointments in the conduct of foreign policy.

"We can no longer afford to allow this practice to continue."

Mr. Gore ran into immediate opposition with his 15 percent cap and doubled it in an attempt to meet objections that his measure was an unconstitutional attempt to limit a president's appointment powers.

The measure failed on a vote of 61-to-38, with 18 Democrats voting no.

'Masterful job'

The State Department's report on religious persecution around the world was a "masterful job," Elliott Abrams, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said yesterday.

"The State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom and Ambassador-at-large Robert Seiple are to be commended for another masterful job in compiling in unvarnished form the tragic story of religious persecution around the globe," said Mr. Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state.

Mr. Seiple headed the State Department team that prepared the report, which listed China, Cuba and North Korea among the world's worst violators of religious liberty.

"Once again the facts are in. The real question is what will the administration and Congress do with them?" Mr. Abrams asked.

"While many fine words have been spoken, little action has followed."

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