Two Los Angeles fundraisers, soap opera producer Colleen Bell and political consultant Noah Mamet, were confirmed by the Senate as ambassadors after a contentious nomination process.
The Senate confirmed Mamet as ambassador to Argentina by a vote of 50-43, and Bell as Ambassador to Hungary by a vote of 52-42. The votes were along party lines.
Their confirmations had been delayed after Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), raised objections over their qualifications. McCain even wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal claiming that the sole criteria for their selection was their ability to raise money for President Obama's re-election campaign. He singled out Mamet for admitting that he had not yet been to Argentina, and Bell, producer of "The Bold and the Beautiful," for struggling to "define even one strategic interest in the U.S. relationship with Hungary."
But the practice of filling ambassadorships with political appointees is not new, particularly in countries that are not world hotspots. Democratic and Republican presidents have long filled their ranks with friends and campaign fundraisers. Mamet and Bell each raised more than $500,000 for Obama's reelection campaign.
Lack of a foreign policy background, or even having visited the country, also hasn't been a prerequisite, as the ambassadors are often assisted by career diplomats.
Charles Rivkin, former CEO of Wild Brain Media and the Jim Henson Co., was a bundler for President Obama in 2008 and went on to become Ambassador to France, earning high marks from a State Department inspector general's report.
On the Senate floor on Tuesday, McCain again blasted the political appointments, but Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) defended them. "Just because someone is a producer of a popular television show, that doesn't disqualify them," Boxer said, according to Yahoo News. "She's an intelligent woman. She knows how to be successful."
The nominations would have been in jeopardy had a vote been delayed with Senate control shifting to the GOP.
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