After all that's happened this week, you'd think ambassadorships in the Trump administration would be selling a dime a dozen. But earlier this year, $1 million was the going rate, and maybe a little more loose change, if an email from Republican National Committee chairwoman and Northville resident Ronna McDaniel is any indication.
The Free Press reports that McDaniel asked a Trump donor and nominee for ambassador to the Bahamas for a $500,000 donation to the RNC, after the nominee, San Diego real estate developer Doug Manchester, had already given $1 million to President Trump's inauguration fund. Manchester's nomination was then still under consideration
At the time, Manchester ...was still awaiting confirmation to an ambassadorship in the Bahamas, a nomination that had languished in the Republican-led Senate for more than two years.
Three days before McDaniel's request, however, Trump in a tweet had praised Manchester for taking supplies to the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and the damage it inflicted, calling him, "hopefully the next Ambassador to the Bahamas."
CBS reported that Manchester wrote back to McDaniel after her request, saying, "As you know, I am not supposed to do any, but but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000. Assuming I get voted out of the (Foreign Relations Committee) ... we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote ... Once confirmed (our) family will respond!"
Manchester later withdrew his nomination for "personal reasons." An RNC spokesman defended the email from McDaniel, but said Manchester's response, which linked further financial support to his confirmation, was "totally inappropriate."
Another $1 million inauguration fund donor is in the spotlight this week, of course. Gordon Sondland was a hotelier in the Pacific Northwest when he was named ambassador to the European Union, and later became embroiled in the Ukrainian aid-for-investigations scheme unraveling in recent days in an impeachment inquiry before the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.
Awarding ambassadorships to donors is common practice in American politics. Postings to countries with difficult or strategically important relations to the U.S. generally go to career Foreign Service officers or others with diplomatic experience, while those to less significant but still desirable countries, like the Bahamas, go to political donors with at least some relevant experience. Barack Obama nominated Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg to be ambassador to Japan. While JFK's daughter is a lawyer and author, she had no diplomatic experience and did not speak Japanese.
Sondland was operating outside his sphere in his dealings with Ukraine, which is not part of the E.U., although it is considered strategically significant, as a buffer between Europe and an increasingly aggressive Russia.