Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cabinet appointees donated heavily to Obama

President-elect Obama’s Cabinet appointees and advisers contributed more than $53,000 to his presidential campaign, according to research by The Hill.

Several Cabinet appointees contributed the maximum of $4,600 allowed for an individual donor. The list includes former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who is slated to become Obama’s U.S. trade representative, and Karen Mills, a Maine venture capitalist who is slated to lead the Small Business Administration.

Others who maxed out their contributions are Eric Holder, nominated to be attorney general, and Susan Rice, U.N. ambassador-designate.

It’s not uncommon for those chosen for Cabinet positions to have donated heavily to the campaign of the presidential winner. While campaign contributions don’t hurt in Cabinet selections, they are more a reflection of “ideological agreement, friendship or party loyalty, rather than in return for campaign support,” said Kenneth Gross, who leads Skadden Arps’s political law practice.

“The president-elect’s sole criterion for assembling his Cabinet is looking for people of outstanding qualifications and excellence to serve the American people,” said Tommy Vietor, Obama’s spokesman.

While several of Obama’s Cabinet picks maxed out their contributions, many donated in the $2,000 range, such as Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), Obama’s choice to become secretary of Labor.

Other Cabinet choices, however, made no contribution to any presidential candidates. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), designated to become secretary of the Interior, did not contribute anything to Obama’s campaign. Salazar endorsed Obama in December 2007.

Salazar joins the ranks of other Cabinet picks who did not donate to any campaign, including Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), Timothy Geithner, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki and retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Jones.

As The Hill reported last week, several of Obama’s Cabinet appointments and advisers contributed to his rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), during the Democratic primary. Clinton, now Obama’s pick for secretary of State, donated $2,300 to Obama after she dropped out of the race.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), tapped by the president-elect to be his Agriculture secretary, endorsed Clinton and donated to her campaign after he dropped out of the presidential race. 

Another Clinton donor slated for an Obama administration role is Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration. Browner, who contributed $2,300 to Clinton’s campaign, will advise Obama on energy and climate change issues. Meanwhile, Lisa Jackson, tapped by Obama to head the EPA, also contributed to Clinton.

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