Obama taps Kmiec, fundraiser for foreign posts

President Obama has tapped a prominent conservative legal scholar to serve as ambassador to scenic Malta while handing a big donor the opportunity to represent the United States in the Netherlands.

Obama will nominate Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor and former head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Reagan, to be ambassador to Malta, a small island nation in the Mediterranean just south of Italy.

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Kmiec caused a stir during the 2008 presidential election when he publicly backed Obama, citing healthcare costs and the Iraq war as his motivation. A committed Catholic, Kmiec was later denied communion last year during a Mass of Catholic business leaders for his endorsement.

Meanwhile, Obama turned to a longtime backer for another ambassadorship, bringing to 15 the number of prominent financiers who will head to American embassies overseas.

Obama will name Fay Hartog Levin, a senior consultant at the Chicago-based Res Publica Group, to be ambassador to the Netherlands. Hartog Levin, a former top executive at Chicago's Field Museum, was on Obama's Illinois finance committee.

On Thursday, the president also named three longtime career foreign service officers to ambassadorships that generally have been filled by professional diplomats, unlike Malta and the Netherlands.

Jonathan Addleton, who has headed USAID missions in Pakistan, Cambodia and Mongolia, will head back to the steppes of Eastern Asia to become ambassador to Mongolia. Ambassador Gayleatha Beatrice Brown, currently serving in Benin, will move to nearby Burkina Faso. And Earl Irving, a Foggy Bottom employee since 1983, will be America's representative in Swaziland, a small African kingdom locked between South Africa and Mozambique.