February 28, 2020
Update: On May 6, Louis DeJoy was named postmaster general. For years, President Trump has pushed to shake up the Postal Service, and this appointment puts a loyalist and massive donor in charge. This couple’s huge donations were evidently enough to get them two powerful positions in the Trump administration.
President Trump officially nominated Aldona Wos as US Ambassador to Canada this week, continuing his pattern of appointing loyal donors to the highest levels of American government. Wos’ husband, Louis DeJoy, reportedly attended a half-a-million dollar per couple Trump fundraiser in Palm Beach just a few days after Trump announced Wos’ nomination on February 11, and before Trump formally sent the nomination to the Senate on February 25th. DeJoy’s political giving is unlikely to slow down during her confirmation process, and he has donated to the senate campaigns of six senators who will be voting on her nomination.
Handing out ambassadorships to donors and allies is not unique to the Trump administration, but Trump has appointed significantly more donors than other presidents. While the average has been around a third of all ambassadorships, Trump has bumped up that share to 42%.
The stakes are especially high when it comes to appointing an Ambassador to Canada; Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and it’s the country with which the US shares the longest border in the world. That did not stop Trump from once again picking a massive donor over a career diplomat or someone with ties to the region.
As Republican mega-donors with a long history of massive political gifts, Wos and her husband are a prime example of Trump’s awarding of ambassadorships to donors. Since 2016, Aldona Wos donated $149,350 to the Republican National Committee, $37,700 to Trump Victory (a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and RNC), and $5,400 to the Trump campaign itself. These types of political donations are listed clearly on nominee questionnaires, so Republican Senators can see exactly how much money she has donated to support them as they consider whether to support her. Those are only the political contributions that have been reported to the FEC to date, there could be more that do not need to be disclosed and the most recent contributions to Senators may not be disclosed until after her confirmation hearing.
DeJoy’s donation history dwarfs his wife’s, with a total of more than $2.5 million in political donations since 2016 alone. DeJoy has donated to many of the same groups that Wos has, but in even higher amounts, and to even more committees, state parties, and candidates. Since 2016 alone, he’s contributed $13,500 to the Trump campaign, $866,000 to Trump Victory and $1.1 million to the RNC. DeJoy also donated $100,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, which was apparently enough to buy him a seat near Trump during his inauguration. He has also been named national finance chairman for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte this summer.
While Wos has only donated to their home state Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr’s most recent campaigns, DeJoy has donated to six sitting Senators in their Senate races: Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnel and Martha McSally. He also donated $138,900 to the NRSC, which allocates money to Republican Senate candidates across the country. DeJoy has also donated to 21 state parties since 2016. All of these contributions made DeJoy a very important part of the Republican fundraising apparatus.
Strategically spending money has always been one of the most effective ways to win power in Washington, but there are more ways than ever under President Trump: whether that means spending money at Trump properties, Trump fundraisers, or most likely both, since so many fundraisers are now held at Trump properties. That phenomenon has been perhaps most pronounced when it comes to his ambassadorships. Trump’s previous Ambassador to Canada, Kelly Craft, is now Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations. She is a gold level member of the Trump Hotel, and donated $360,600 to Trump Victory in December 2019. Gordon Sondland, Trump’s now-former Ambassador to the European Union donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. Lana Marks, Trump’s Ambassador to South Africa, is a Mar-a-Lago member.
Trump’s picks to represent US interests abroad often get the job after making hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in donations. We have to wonder whether the American people’s interests are being served or whether they are taking a back seat to Trump’s fundraising efforts. In the case of Louis Dejoy and Aldona Wos, we also have to ask those questions of six of the Senators who will be voting on whether or not to confirm her.