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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

Salesforce rolls the dice on Slack

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Salesforce's likely acquisition of workplace messaging service Slack — not yet a done deal but widely anticipated to be announced Tuesday afternoon — represents a big gamble for everyone involved.

For Slack, challenged by competition from Microsoft, the bet is that a deeper-pocketed owner like Salesforce, with wide experience selling into large companies, will help the bottom line.

FBI stats show border cities are among the safest

Data: FBI, Kansas Bureau of Investigation; Note: This table includes the eight largest communities on the U.S.-Mexico border and eight other U.S. cities similar in population size and demographics; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

U.S. communities along the Mexico border are among the safest in America, with some border cities holding crime rates well below the national average, FBI statistics show.

Why it matters: The latest crime data collected by the FBI from 2019 contradicts the narrative by President Trump and others that the U.S.-Mexico border is a "lawless" region suffering from violence and mayhem.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
2 hours ago - Science

The rise of military space powers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nations around the world are shoring up their defensive and offensive capabilities in space — for today's wars and tomorrow's.

Why it matters: Using space as a warfighting domain opens up new avenues for technologically advanced nations to dominate their enemies. But it can also make those countries more vulnerable to attack in novel ways.