By Reid Wilson - 06/25/09 04:46 PM EDT
President Obama on Thursday tapped two more campaign donors to head U.S. embassies overseas.
Announcing six new ambassadors, some headed to cushy European posts and others set for more difficult climes, Obama again turned to those who helped fund his campaign, bringing the number of major donors and supporters appointed to ambassadorships to 18 out of his 40 nominees.
Colorado lawyer Bruce Oreck, another $500,000 bundler for the campaign, will be the ambassador to Finland if Obama gets his way. Oreck, a major Democratic donor, has served on energy and climate change panels for Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D).
Obama also nominated a close friend of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Boston investor David Thorne, to serve as ambassador to Italy and San Marino. Thorne, the brother of Kerry's late first wife, is a former classmate of the Massachusetts senator when the two went to Yale in the 1960s.
"President Obama has made a terrific choice in David Thorne to serve as our country's next Ambassador to Italy," Kerry said in a statement provided to The Hill. "David will bring to the post a lifelong connection to Italy, a keen intellect, fluent command of the Italian language, and a rich background in Southern European affairs. David is a veteran who cares deeply about his country and comes from a family steeped in public service, and I'm thrilled that he's been tapped to serve his nation."
Thorne is not listed as an Obama bundler, but he did max out to the president's campaign. Thorne also gave money to Vice President Biden's presidential campaign and to two Democratic House candidates, neither of whom made it out of their respective primaries.
Obama also announced his intention to appoint three career diplomats to posts that will require more skill to protect U.S. interests.
Judith Garber, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will head to the embassy in Latvia. Garber has diplomatic experience in Israel, the Czech Republic, Mexico and Spain.
The U.S. ambassador to Benin, a small Western African republic, will be James Knight, the State Department's director of the Office of East African Affairs. Knight, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, has spent his career handling African issues on the continent and in Foggy Bottom.
And Charles Ray, who has headed the Defense Department's office dedicated to prisoners of war and missing personnel, will become the ambassador to the troubled nation of Zimbabwe. A 20-year Army veteran, Ray served as President Bush's ambassador to Cambodia.
On Thursday, Obama also appointed David Killion as permanent representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Karen Kornbluh as permanent representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Killion is a senior staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while Kornbluh, formerly then-Sen. Obama's policy director, is a visiting scholar at the Center for American Progress.
This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.