Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

The U.S. ambassadors appointed by President Trump have given more financial support to his election than any cohort of ambassadors in recent history, even as they demonstrated fewer qualifications for the job, according to a new study of ambassadorial appointments over the last three decades.

Expand chart
Data: Scoville, 2019, “Unqualified Ambassadors”; Note: Dollar values are adjusted for inflation as of July, 2017; Get the data; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Why it matters: The data undercuts Trump's campaign claim that his personal fortune places him above the influence of donor cash — and shows how campaign contributions can help secure jobs for people with relatively weak diplomatic backgrounds.

By the numbers: On average, Trump-appointed ambassadors contributed $96,927.98 to his campaign and supporting entities, such as independent expenditure committees, according to the forthcoming paper by Marquette University Law School's Ryan M. Scoville.

  • Trump's ambassadors' average contribution far exceeded the previous record of $60,721.83 set by George W. Bush's ambassadors.
  • Meanwhile, just 58.6% of Trump's appointees were career Foreign Service Officers, a record low among presidents since Ronald Reagan.

Scoville's paper is based on more than 1,900 certificates of competency — documents the president is legally required provide to Congress for each ambassadorial appointment. He obtained most of them from the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act.

In addition to experience in the Foreign Service, Scoville compares presidents' ambassadorial appointees by how familiar they are with their host countries, an area where Trump's ambassadors fare somewhat better.

Expand chart
Data: Scoville, 2019, “Unqualified Ambassadors”; Get the data; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Key data points:

  • Among ambassadors chosen from outside the Foreign Service, the average contribution to the president who nominated them was about $88,135. Among career Foreign Service Officers, by contrast, the average contribution was only about $31.
  • Of the 207 ambassadors who contributed at least ten thousand dollars, only one — Todd D. Robinson, whom Barack Obama appointed ambassador to Guatemala in 2014 — was a career Foreign Service Officer.
  • The largest financial contribution to any president came from the late Roland Arnall, who gave nearly $9.5 million to George W. Bush's campaign and a handful of pro-Bush committees and independent expenditure groups. Arnall served as ambassador to the Netherlands from 2006 to 2008.

The big picture: Though favored by presidents, America's preference for selecting ambassadors from outside the professional diplomatic corps is rare among advanced democracies and is opposed by the U.S. Foreign Service's professional association.

Go deeper

There's an ETF for everything, except bitcoin

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Happiness. Weed. Robots. Water. Whatever the theme, there's probably an ETF promoting a basket of stocks related to it.

Why it matters: Thematic ETFs are an investment mania side effect. There's newfound retail investor interest in narrow exposure to hot corners of the stock market. More are launching to meet the moment.

A divided nation flocks to partisan brands

Data: Harris Poll; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Americans are leaning into companies that have strong political positions, in the wake of one of the country's most divisive election years.

Driving the news: New rankings from the Axios/Harris 100 poll — an annual survey to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in the country — show that brands with clear partisan identifications are becoming more popular.

America is finally winning its fight against the coronavirus

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

America’s battle against the coronavirus is going great.

The big picture: For the first time in a long time, nobody needs to cherry-pick some misleading data to make it seem like things are going well, and the good news doesn’t need an endless list of caveats, either. It’s just really good news. We’re winning. Be happy.