Tuesday, February 15, 2005

AP Exclusive: Letter Says Donor Was Promised Ambassadorship

A big Republican donor goes to his governor and senator, saying he was told by President Bush's chief fund-raiser he'd be getting a plum ambassadorial appointment but it wasn't delivered. The senator takes his case right to the top of the White House. Nothing happens for two years. The donor then helps stage a fund-raiser for Bush. A week later, the donor lands an appointment as the chairman of the federal board overseeing billions of dollars of student loans. The aggressive job campaign of businessman Duane Acklie - detailed in the Nebraska gubernatorial files of new Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns - provides a rare window into donors, their access and their rewards.

And there's a twist.

Acklie named names - including chief fund-raiser Jack Oliver - and committed to writing one of the unwritten rules of politics: Presidents for years have rewarded big donors with plum ambassadorships. "My only interest, if I am going to serve, would be in serving as an ambassador or in a position involving trade," Acklie wrote in a May 2001 "Dear Mike" letter to then-Gov. Johanns. The letter was contained in the official gubernatorial correspondence obtained by The Associated Press under Nebraska's open records law.

"Jack Oliver told me several weeks ago that he was informed that I would not receive one of the eight major ambassadorships but would be receiving an ambassadorship," Acklie wrote.
The owner of Crete Carrier Corp., a major trucking company, even wondered aloud why he hadn't yet landed an ambassadorship when other Republicans who helped elect Bush in 2000 had already gotten theirs.

"Most of the appointments have been made. That is perfectly OK, and if others have done more work for the party, are better qualified or have helped the Bush team more, I certainly understand," Acklie wrote. "I don't understand why I haven't heard a single thing after Jack Oliver's comment to me."

Acklie and Oliver both declined to be interviewed for this story. Link

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