From Center for Responsive Politics --
Politically connected ambassadors will soon represent the United States in Hungary and New Zealand.
President Barack Obama has nominated philanthropist and real estate developer Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis to be ambassador to Hungary, while he nominated lawyer David Huebner to serve as the nation's top diplomat in New Zealand and Samoa. The Center for Responsive Politics has found that both Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and Huebner have been active donors to federal politicians over the past 20 years.
Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis and her husband, Markos Kounalakis, who is the president of Washington Monthly, have contributed $438,880 to federal candidates, committees and leadership PACs since 1989, CRP found. Of this sum, 95 percent went to Democratic candidates and committees.
The vast majority of these contributions have been in Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis' name. The Center for Responsive Politics found that her top beneficiaries include the following:
- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with $100,200 since 1993,
- The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, with $41,000 since 1999,
- Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with $24,000 since 1997,
- The Democratic Party of California, with $20,215 since 2003,
- The Democratic National Committee, with $18,500 since 1995 and
- First lady-turned Senator-turned presidential candidate-turned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with $18,500 since 1999.
Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis also headed the pro-Clinton group Greek-Americans for Clinton last cycle, and, according to Public Citizen, she bundled at least $100,000 for Clinton's 2008 presidential bid. She hails from a wealthy California Greek family, and her father, Angelo Tsakopoulos, had served as the national chair of Greek-Americans for Bill Clinton during his 1992 and 1996 campaigns.
Four percent of Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis' contributions have gone to Republicans, including $6,000 since 1991 to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who recently voted in favor of the Senate Finance Committee's health insurance reform bill.
Donations to the left-leaning political action committees EMILY's List and the Harry S Truman Club comprise the remaining one percent of her contributions.
After Obama bested Clinton during the Democratic primaries, Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis also donated the legal maximum of $4,600 to Obama, in June 2008.
Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, her brother and a fellow executive at the family's real estate firm AKT Development, came around to support Obama during the presidential primaries in late February 2008, when he joined Obama's financial team. He went on to bundle at least $50,000 for Obama's presidential bid.
Lawyer David Huebner, meanwhile, has contributed $13,600 to federal candidates and committees since 1993, the Center for Responsive Politics has found. Of this amount, 97 percent has gone to Democratic candidates and party committees. A donation of $350 in 1997 to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which provides financial supports gay and lesbian candidates for federal office, accounts for the remainder of his contributions.
Huebner's largest beneficiary has been the DCCC, to which he donated $7,000 during the 2000 election cycle. Other top contributions from Huebner include $1,000 to President Bill Clinton in 1995, $1,000 to the Democratic Party of California in 1996, $1,000 to Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) in 1996 and $1,000 to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 1997.
Huebner will take a trip through the revolving door to serve as the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. He is a long-time attorney who earned his law degree at Yale. He was a partner and chairman of the law firm Coudert Brothers. He currently
works as a lawyer in Shanghai for Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton.
A former resident of California, Huebner previously served as chairman of the California Law Revision Commission and taught courses in international business and intellectual property at the University of Southern California's Gould School of Law.
Huebner, who is openly gay, was also a founding board member and the former board co-chair for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He currently serves as the group's general counsel.
Huebner is the Obama administration's first openly gay ambassador nominee. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each also appointed openly gay ambassadors.
In the past month, Obama has also nominated career members of the Foreign Service for several ambassadorships. None of these individuals have made any contributions to federal candidates or committees above the Federal Election Commissions $200 disclosure threshold, a Center for Responsive Politics review has found.
These nominations include David D. Nelson for Uruguay, Michael C. Polt for Estonia, Peter A. Prahar for Micronesia, John F. Tefft for Ukraine, James B. Warlick, Jr. for Bulgaria and Mary Warlick for Serbia. Obama also nominated Robert R. King, a long-time legislative staffer for Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), to be a special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, which carries the rank of ambassador.
To update our ongoing coverage: By CRP's count, Obama has named 93 individuals to posts with the rank of ambassador. Twenty-two of them have been bundlers for Obama's political committees. One, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, was a campaign bundler for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
Fifty-four of the ambassadors have contributed to federal candidates, parties or committees since 1989. And 39 of them have not made any known campaign contributions.
CRP researchers Douglas Weber and Carolyn Sharpe contributed to this report.