Biden nominates wealthy Democratic donor as US ambassador to UK

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<span>Photograph: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP</span>
Photograph: Kamil Zihnioglu/AP

Jane Hartley, a businesswoman and Democratic party fundraiser, has been nominated as the next US ambassador to Britain, continuing a practice by both parties in recent decades of appointing wealthy donors to the prestigious job.

Hartley, who served as ambassador to Paris in the Obama administration, is a business executive, and is married to an investment banker, with a record of large-scale fundraising for Democratic candidates.

She has been a campaign “bundler”, meaning she has solicited and coordinated over $100,000 in contributions to the party from groups of donors. During the presidential campaign, Joe Biden had said he would break from the practice of handing out ambassadorships as rewards for the wealthy faithful.

“I’m going to appoint the best people possible,” he promised. “Nobody, in fact, will be appointed by me based on anything they contributed.”

Despite that campaign pledge, 25 of Biden’s ambassador picks are former “bundlers”, a third of the total, according to a Washington Post analysis published before the Hartley announcement.

That is a higher proportion of fundraisers than either Barack Obama or George W Bush appointed in their first year. Donald Trump did not disclose the figures for the number of “bundlers” he made ambassador, but he made a higher percentage of political appointments than his predecessors.

Hartley, 71, will now face confirmation hearings in the Senate. She was a White House staffer in the Jimmy Carter administration but later went in to business and rose to become chief executive officer of the G7 and Observatory Group consulting firms. Her husband Ralph Schlosstein is the CEO of Evercore Partners, a global investment banking advisory business.

The main controversy during Hartley’s ambassadorial stint in Paris was her decision to commission Jeff Koons for a monument commemorating the 2015 wave of terrorist attacks in the French capital. Koons produced a giant metal hand holding a multicoloured bouquet of tulips, which triggered an uproar of complaints over its appropriateness, both in style and location.

The venue for the 35-tonne sculpture was in a very wealthy area just off the Champs-Élysées and not in the poorer 11th arrondissement where the murders took place in and around the Bataclan theatre. French cultural figures wrote an open letter condemning it as a “opportunistic, even cynical” project.

“It’s really shocking that Biden has put forward so many with so little diplomatic experience,” Brett Bruen, the director of global engagement in the Obama White House. “In the past, when Hartley served, the stakes were not so high for an ambassador. But, now with the very credibility of our country on the line, with the confidence in our leadership at historic lows, we cannot be sending amateur diplomats abroad.”

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