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Biden taps major donors for Argentina and Switzerland envoys

President Joe Biden waves as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, as he heads to Wilmington, Del., for the weekend. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Joe Biden waves as he walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021, as he heads to Wilmington, Del., for the weekend. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WILMINGTON, Del. – President Joe Biden is nominating two major Democratic donors to serve as ambassadors to Argentina and Switzerland.

The White House announced Friday that Biden has picked LGBT rights activist and philanthropist Scott Miller to serve as his administration's envoy to Bern and trial lawyer Marc Stanley to serve in Buenos Aires. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also serves as the chief envoy to Liechtenstein.

Miller, a former account vice president at UBS Wealth Management in Denver, and his husband, Tim Gill, are prominent philanthropists and generous backers of Democratic candidates and causes.

Stanley, a prominent Dallas attorney, was chairman for the Lawyers for Biden arm of the 2020 campaign, recruiting lawyers across the country to donate legal services to the president's run for the White House.

Miller and his husband have donated at least $3.6 million to Democratic candidates and causes since 2010. That includes $365,000 given to Biden’s general election fundraising effort, according to federal fundraising disclosures. Though they donated at least $1.1 million to support Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, they also gave $50,000 that election to a group called “Draft Biden,” which sought to get Biden to run in that year’s primary, the records show.

Stanley has contributed nearly $1 million since 2010, records show. That includes a $35,000 contribution made in April 2020 to Biden’s general election fundraising effort, as well an additional $5,600 max-out donation he gave to Biden’s Democratic primary bid in 2019.

Presidents often dispense prime ambassadorships as rewards to political allies and top donors. Those appointments often come with an expectation that the appointees can foot the bill for entertaining on behalf of the United States in pricey, high-profile capitals.

About 44% of Donald Trump’s ambassadorial appointments were political appointees, compared with 31% for Barack Obama and 32% for George W. Bush, according to the American Foreign Service Association. Biden hopes to keep political appointments to about 30% of ambassador picks, according to an administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about internal discussions.

To be certain, most political appointees from the donor class, a small population that’s made up of predominantly white men, have historically had little impact on foreign policy.

Occasionally, such political appointees have caused headaches.

Trump’s appointees included hotelier and $1 million inaugural contributor Gordon Sondland, who served as chief envoy to the European Union. Sondland provided unflattering testimony about Trump during his first impeachment, which centered on allegations Trump sought help from Ukrainian authorities to undermine Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Sondland was later fired by Trump.

Other major donors to receive ambassadorial nominations from Biden include Denise Bauer (France and Monaco), David Cohen (Canada) and Cynthia Telles (Costa Rica).

The White House also announced Biden is nominating career senior foreign service officer David Gilmour to serve as ambassador to Equatorial Guinea. Gilmour has held a series of high-ranking State Department positions and is a former ambassador to Togo.

Slodysko reported from Washington.