Political Patronage

by Ed Sawicki - updated December 22, 2017

You may be able to get an idea of a presidential administration's desire to put country ahead of party and politics by its political patronage. This article lists recent administrations and the percentages of their ambassador nominations of career diplomats versus political patronage.

There are two kinds of people who become ambassadors: career diplomats and political appointees.

Career diplomats

These people made diplomacy their career. They've been trained to be diplomats. They are usually more effective at the job.

Political appointments

Such appointments usually reward people who contributed large amounts of money to a president's campaign. These people do not necessarily know anything about diplomacy. They could seek the position in order to influence foreign governments for the benefit of companies they have an interest in.

This table shows the number of appointments made by recent presidents and the percentage of career diplomats they appointed - a higher percentage is better. The data comes from the American Foreign Service Association:

PresidentAppts  Career
diplomats
%
Gerald Ford 97 62
Jimmy Carter 20274
Ronald Reagan 42062
George HW Bush21468
Bill Clinton 41772
George W Bush 46068
Barak Obama 41670
Donald Trump 136 51

References

American Foreign Service Association Ambassador tracker