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Top Obama Fundraisers Get Posts

WASHINGTON - More than 40 percent of President Obama's top-level fundraisers have secured posts in his administration, from key executive branch jobs to diplomatic postings in countries such as France, Spain and the Bahamas, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Twenty of the 47 fundraisers Obama's campaign identified as collecting more than $500,000 have been named to government positions.

Overall, about 600 individuals and couples raised money to help fund Obama's presidential campaign. USA TODAY's analysis found that 54 have been named to government positions, ranging from White House posts to advisory roles, such as serving on the economic recovery board.

A separate analysis by the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats' union, found that more than half of the ambassadors named are political appointees, said Susan Johnson, president of the association. An appointment is considered political if it does not go to a career diplomat in the State Department.

Traditionally about 30 percent of top diplomatic jobs go to political appointees. Ambassadors earn $153,200 to $162,900 annually.

"It is time to end the spoils system and the de facto sale of ambassadorships," Johnson said.

The administration is "well aware of the historical target of career vs. non-career ambassadors, and we will be right on that target," said White House spokesman Thomas Vietor. He said the first diplomatic jobs go to political appointees because those are available when a president takes office.

Among fundraisers with jobs: former technology executive Julius Genachowski as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Nicole Avant, a music industry executive who is the top envoy in the Bahamas. Neither granted interviews.

Those not in the administration benefited in other ways, including attending invitation-only White House bashes.

Fundraiser David Gail joined dignitaries in July for an East Room country music concert. He said he greeted Obama after the event but doesn't have special access to the president, who was elected on a pledge to change business-as-usual in Washington.

"I've seen people who have been included on conference calls or events who were very involved at the grass-roots level," Gail said.

"Contributing doesn't guarantee a visit to the White House," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday, "nor does it preclude it."

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