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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

At least 3 dead after Amtrak train derails in Montana

Photo: Jacob Cordeiro/Twitter

An Amtrak train derailed near Joplin, Montana, resulting in at least three deaths and multiple injuries on Saturday, per a Liberty County Sheriff's Office statement to media outlets.

The big picture: Some 147 passengers and 13 crew were aboard the Empire Builder train, which runs from Seattle to Chicago, when seven cars derailed about 4p.m., Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in an emailed statement.

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for NYC teachers

Students are dismissed from the first day of school at PS 133 in Brooklyn on Sept. 13. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty Images

A federal appeals court is set to hear a challenge Wednesday to a vaccine mandate planned for New York City school employees.

Why it matters The vaccine mandate was set to begin on Monday, prompting concerns over staffing shortages in schools across the nation's largest school system. But a judge on Friday temporarily blocked the measure, per AP.

New York prepares for staff shortages from health vaccine mandate

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a news conference Tuesday in New York City.. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced Saturday she would declare a state of emergency if there were health worker shortages due to New York's upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Why it matters: Hochul moved to reassure concerns of staffing shortages in the health care sector in a statement that also outlined plans to call in medically trained National Guard members, workers from outside New York and retirees if necessary when the mandate takes effect Monday.