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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.

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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

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.