Bucks congressional candidate sought ambassadorship after donating to Obama

Scott Wallace, the Democratic candidate in the newly drawn 8th Congressional District (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Scott Wallace, the Democratic candidate in the newly drawn 8th Congressional District (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Bucks County Democratic congressional candidate Scott Wallace sought an ambassadorship from President Barack Obama after he and his wife donated more than $100,000 to Obama’s campaign and inaugural celebration, according to campaign finance records and leaked emails cited in a report by Fox News.

The Wallace campaign didn’t dispute the contributions or the email overtures, but said Wallace’s support for Obama’s candidacy was based on commitment to his principles, and that his interest in serving as ambassador to South Africa was consistent with his years of work in that region. He was never given the ambassadorship.

“Scott is proud to have supported President Obama throughout the years,” said Wallace campaign communications director Zoe Wilson-Meyer. “He campaigned for him in many capacities like he has for several Democratic presidential candidates over the past two decades.”

Wallace, who has considerable inherited wealth, has spent much of his career running the Wallace Global Fund, a foundation that funds progressive causes. Wallace and his wife lived for years in South Africa, where the foundation funded projects to promote democracy.

There is a long, bipartisan tradition of presidents giving ambassadorial appointments to major campaign contributors and fundraisers.

But the $109,300 the Wallace family gave falls well short of the financial support other ambassadors provided the Obama campaign, according to a 2013 analysis by the Washington-based publication, The Hill.

The Hill found that donors and fundraisers who were awarded ambassadorships were responsible for contributions ranging from $477,000 to $2.36 million each. A similar analysis by the online publication Quartz, cited 15 people named ambassadors that had each raised more than $1 million.

Current New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who’s a former executive at Goldman Sachs, was a major Democratic donor before he served as ambassador to Germany. When he was named to the job, Open Secrets reported that he had given $1.5 million to Democratic candidates, including $100,000 to the Obama inauguration committee.

The Fox News story suggests Wallace’s actions are inconsistent with his campaign statements condemning the influence of money in politics.

Wilson-Meyer said Wallace’s opponent, U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick, had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from oil and gas special interests and then voted to give them billions in tax breaks in the tax overhaul approved by Congress last year.

The records cited by Fox show the Wallaces contributed $59,300 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008, then contributed $50,000 to the Obama inauguration.

The emails by Wallace expressing interest in the ambassadorship to South Africa were written to John Podesta, a leading Democratic official who was involved in the Obama transition effort.

The emails were made public by Wikileaks. Federal prosecutors allege in an indictment that the emails were stolen by Russian hackers and provided to Wikileaks.

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