- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

President Obama on Thursday announced eight new ambassadorial appointments, naming three big campaign donors and fundraisers to plum posts in Canada, the Bahamas and South Africa and tapping career diplomats for jobs in Guinea, Haiti and Lithuania.

Mr. Obama also looked outside the foreign service for nominees to run the U.S. embassies in Mexico and Saudi Arabia, both of whom were modest donors to his campaign but have past military and diplomatic careers.

The president chose California music executive Nicole Avant to be the next American ambassador to the Bahamas. Miss Avant and her family have been prolific donors to the Democratic Party and gave money to both Mr. Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

Miss Avant, an occasional actress and the vice president of Interior Music and Avant Garde Music Publishing, raised at least $500,000 for Mr. Obama and donated the maximum $4,600 to his campaign and $500 to Mrs. Clinton’s.

Miss Avant’s father, Clarence, a former chairman of Motown Records, contributed $4,600 to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns and donated another $25,000 to Mr. Obama’s inauguration fund. Miss Avant’s brother, Alexander, was also a contributor, giving $4,600 to the Obama campaign and $1,250 to Mrs. Clinton’s.

For South Africa, Mr. Obama chose Donald Gips, a Colorado communications executive, aide to former Vice President Al Gore and Federal Communications Commission official. Mr. Gips raised at least $500,000 for Mr. Obama, and donated more than $4,000 to his campaign and $2,300 to Mrs. Clinton’s, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mr. Obama chose David Jacobson, an Illinois lawyer, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada. Mr. Jacobson raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Mr. Obama and donated $2,507 to his campaign and $500 each to Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s ill-fated presidential primary runs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mr. Obama named a former career diplomat Carlos Pascual to be ambassador to Mexico. Mr. Pascual, currently at the Brookings Institution, served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2000 to 2003 and has diplomatic experience in reconstruction and stabilization in Europe and elsewhere. He donated $1,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaign.

For Saudi Arabia, Mr. Obama selected retired Air Force Gen. James Smith of New Hampshire who is now an executive with Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems. The retired general, who flew combat missions during the Gulf War and served as deputy commander at the Joint Warfighting Center of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, contributed $3,300 to Mr. Obama’s campaign.

In addition to those political appointments, Mr. Obama tapped career diplomats Patricia Moller, Kenneth Merten and Anne Derse to be ambassadors to Guinea, Haiti and Lithuania.

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