OUR OPINION: For ambassador to Norway, a better nominee; but ...
Partner at Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis from 1994 to 2013. ... founder and first chairman of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights ... board member of the Ploughshares Fund, trustee of the PEN American Center and co-founder and vice chai...
Partner at Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis from 1994 to 2013. ... founder and first chairman of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights ... board member of the Ploughshares Fund, trustee of the PEN American Center and co-founder and vice chair of the Center for Victims of Torture ... holder of undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Minnesota.
It's an impressive biography, to be sure.
But one key detail is missing from the White House's official bio of Samuel Heins, President Barack Obama's new nominee to be ambassador to Norway. It's the fact that Heins gave the maximum of $5,000 to the president's re-election campaign and helped bundle more than $1 million in contributions from others.
For the newly high-profile ambassadorship to one of America's staunchest allies, Obama has turned to another bundler. And that's a shame.
Granted, Heins appears to be a far better choice for the post than Obama's first pick: New York businessman and bundler George Tsunis, whose lack of knowledge of Norway led to an embarrassing performance at his Senate confirmation hearings. (Tsunis eventually withdrew his name from consideration.)
Heins' solid legal career and sterling human-rights work are winning him important endorsements-including this one from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.: "An incredibly smart attorney with an extensive background in human rights, I have no doubt that Sam Heins will be a great fit for this position, and I commend the administration on nominating Sam to this important post."
Still, Obama knew all eyes would be on this nomination, in the wake of the Tsunis episode. Also, some of the president's other political appointees have come under heavy fire-including former soap-opera producer and now Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bradley Bell, about whom Sen. John McCain said, "We're about to vote on a totally unqualified individual to be ambassador to a nation which is very important to our national security interest ... I urge my colleagues to put a stop to this foolishness. I urge a no vote."
Might not the president have used the highly publicized nomination to the Norwegian ambassadorship to make a statement? The statement we envision would have been more in line with the president's comment in a January 2009 news conference, "And so, you know, my expectation is that high quality civil servants are going to be rewarded."
That's probably an unrealistic hope, given that the tradition of presidents rewarding friends and supporters with a certain percentage of ambassadorships dates back at least to President Andrew Jackson.
But there's a reason why the federal government replaced the "spoils system" with the merit system of filling federal jobs. And there's a reason why that reform was made more than 100 years ago.
The reason is that there has long been something hugely distasteful about any system in which people appear to be able to buy their way into prominent, powerful and taxpayer-paid posts.
And the Obama administration knows of this distaste-as its omission of Heins' bundling work and campaign contributions from his official biography shows.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald