WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has picked the finance chairman for his 2012 re-election campaign to be the U.S. ambassador to Britain, the White House said Tuesday.
Matthew Barzun, a Louisville business executive, has been confirmed by the Senate once before. He served as U.S. ambassador to Sweden until 2011, when he took the position as Obama’s finance chairman. If confirmed for the London post, Barzun would replace Ambassador Louis Susman, another Democratic fundraiser, who stepped down earlier this year.
Louisville mayor Greg Fischer tweeted, “An entire city stands proud as Louisville’s own Matthew Barzun is named US ambassador to the United Kingdom.”
The Courier-Journal reports that Barzun was a successful businessman when he became a player in Obama’s 2008 campaign. He married Brooke Lee Brown, of the prominent Brown-Forman family, in 1999. The newspaper reports that Barzun made his fortune in Silicon Valley working for a startup called CNET that was founded by his cousin, Louisville native Shelby Bonnie, and that later was sold for $2 billion. After moving to Louisville with his wife, Barzun formed a startup called MedTrackAlert , which provided medical information. He sold the company for an undisclosed amount.
Obama is also nominating John Phillips, who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s 2012 campaign, to be the U.S. envoy to Italy and the Republic of San Marino, the White House said. His wife, Linda Douglass, is a former White House official and served as a spokeswoman for Obama’s first campaign. An attorney known for representing whistle-blowers, Phillips currently chairs Obama’s commission that selects candidates to be White House Fellows.
Barzun and Phillips become the latest in a long string of Obama fundraisers and former campaign operatives to be given plum diplomatic postings in recent months — many of them in European capitals. Last month Obama tapped Patrick Gaspard, a former White House aide and top Democratic Party official, to be the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Earlier in June he nominated Rufus Gifford, who raised upward of $700 million as the head of Obama’s 2012 finance operation, to be U.S ambassador to Denmark. Obama also chose major fundraisers for postings in Spain and Germany.
John Hoover, a veteran diplomat who served in Africa, Asia and Europe, is Obama’s pick for Sierra Leone.
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