The photo is of the Ambassador's residence in Luxembourg, an obvious hovel, the discomforts of which played a major part in ex-Ambassador Cynthia Stroum's constant battles with her staff.
Of course, you've seen the scathing OIG report about our Ambassador/Queen Bee in Luxembourg, the political appointee who was such a disaster that FSOs on her staff curtailed their assignments to take jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan. (That's a feat kind of like reversing the course of nature, since cushy spots like Luxembourg are usually reserved for people coming out of those places.) If you haven't read that report, go here.
Now that you're read it, you might be idly curious about exactly how much money you would have to bundle into campaign cash for a chance to live in a residence so unsatisfactory. Open Secrets Blog (motto: investigating money in politics) has done the research for you:
A new report from the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of State slams the tenure of U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg Cynthia Stroum, one of the top fund-raisers for President Barack Obama and a prolific Democratic donor. Obama appointed her to the post in 2009.
"Most employees describe the Ambassador as aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating, which has resulted in an extremely difficult, unhappy and uncertain work environment," the new report states (see a .pdf file of the 66-page report here).
Some staffers even requested transfers to U.S. embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan to get away from Stroum's "confrontational management style."
-- sip --
According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics, Stroum bundled at least $800,000 for Obama's committees, including a minimum of $500,000 to assist his 2008 presidential campaign and $300,000 to help pay for his inauguration in January 2009.
No other bundler-turned-ambassador has funneled more money Obama's way, the Center finds, although bundling disclosure practices paint only a partial picture.
Presidential candidates are not required to disclose their bundlers' names or the amounts bundled. The information that was voluntarily disclosed in 2008 was often only in broad ranges, such as "more than $500,000" -- the category used to describe Stroum's activities, as well as about four dozen other people's.
Like Stroum, Nicole Avant, who is serving as the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, also bundled a minimum of $800,000 to Obama's committees, as OpenSecrets Blog previously reported. And so did Charles Rivkin, who is now the U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.
As OpenSecrets Blog reported at the time of her nomination, Stroum, along with her daughter, has also directly contributed about $165,000 to federal parties, candidates and committees since 1989.
Of this sum, 97 percent has gone to Democrats, including $4,600 to Obama and $1,000 to now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Stroum also personally donated $10,000 to Obama's inauguration committee.
Here is a table of her other top beneficiaries:
Democratic National Committee $60,500
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee $19,300
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) $11,725
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) $10,547
Democratic Party of Washington $10,500
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) $9,500
Barack Obama $5,600
EMILY's List $5,000
ex-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) $4,300
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) $4,250
How much does it cost to live like an Ambassador in Luxembourg, the Bahamas, or France? The answer is at least $800,000. At rates like that, I can understand why Cynthia Stroum wanted everything in her house exactly so.