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Obama picks wealthy donor as ambassador

Donald Beyer, the former lieutenant governor of Virginia, has been pegged to be the next United States ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

This content was published on June 12, 2009 - 15:14

Beyer, who became wealthy as a car dealer, is one of several big money donors from the Democratic Party to receive diplomatic postings. He raised more than $500,000 (SFr541,000) for then-Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid and contributed $4,600 of his own money to the campaign.

Beyer replaces Peter Coneway, a Texas Republican appointed by George W. Bush. He held the post for roughly two years before stepping down on December 7, 2008.

Leigh Carter, a career diplomat, will continue to act as the embassy's chargé d'affaires in Bern until the Senate confirms Beyer's appointment and Switzerland approves his credentials.

Making the trip across the Atlantic with Beyer will be Washington lawyer Howard Gutman, who has been dispatched to Belgium. Gutman also raised more than $500,000 for the Democratic president.

About one third of US ambassadors are non-career appointees – friends of politicians or party donors – who often receive plum assignments to places like Bern or London. Career diplomats are assigned to more sensitive posts.

Career diplomats were nominated on Thursday to be envoys to Burundi, Tunisia, the Marshall Islands, Oman and Suriname. Obama also chose retired Army General Alfonso Lenhardt to be ambassador to Tanzania.

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