US President Joe Biden has nominated Carrin Patman to be the United States’ ambassador to Iceland, RÚV reports. Patman is a former trial lawyer, currently serves as the chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, and was a major donor to Biden’s presidential campaign.
The US’ last three ambassadors to Iceland have all been political appointees and fundraisers for the presidents who have nominated them. Prior to this, Robert C. Barber was appointed by President Barack Obama and Jeffrey Ross Gunter was appointed by President Donald Trump.
Over the last few decades, US presidents have generally given the country’s more comfortable ambassadorial seats to political supporters, says Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir, professor of political science at the University of Iceland. The president’s ambassadorial nominations must be approved by the senate.
“Today, they look at this as something of a sinecure,” she continued, saying that the opposition party tends to approve political appointees as a sort of quid pro quo. It’s a system that politicians seem largely satisfied with, but among “those who work within the foreign service and have worked their way up, there’s a fair amount of criticism,” said Silja Bára, “and of course within watchdog organizations as well.” Critics argue that “you can buy an ambassadorship.”
President Biden has now nominated around 90 ambassadors, 60-70% of whom could be considered political appointees.