© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fox gets ambassadorship, after all



Washington, DC – President Bush has made a recess appointment that will allow St. Louis businessman Sam Fox to be ambassador to Belgium.

Fox was recently caught in the middle of a debate in Washington over a political donation he gave in 2004.

Fox is a big donor to Republican causes and three years ago he gave $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. That's the group that criticized and questioned John Kerry's war record during his run for President.

Kerry sits on the committee that was to vote on Fox's nomination and Kerry criticized Fox during one hearing. Fox responded that was just giving the money and had no idea how it would be spent.

But President Bush withdrew Fox's nomination when it became clear Democrats would block it. The recess appointment made Wednesday allows Fox to take the job without needing a vote in the Senate.

The maneuver only allows Fox to serve until the end of the next Congress, but in this case that's also the end of the Bush presidency.

Bush's appointment prompted angry rebukes from Democrats, who said Bush's action may even be illegal.

"It's sad but not surprising that this White House would abuse the power of the presidency to reward a donor over the objections of the Senate," Kerry said in a statement.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he plans to ask the Government Accountability Office to issue an opinion on whether the recess appointment is legal.

Recess appointments are intended to give the president flexibility if Congress is out for a lengthy period of time, such as the four-week adjournment in summer. But Dodd said the law was not intended to circumvent lawmakers' approval.

"This is really now taking the recess appointment vehicle and abusing this beyond anyone's imagination," said Dodd, a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. "This is a travesty."

Bush also used his recess appointment authority to make Andrew Biggs deputy director of Social Security. The president's earlier nomination of Biggs, an outspoken advocate of partially privatizing the government's retirement program, was rejected by Senate Democrats in February.

Presidents since George Washington have made appointments during congressional recesses to fill positions in the executive and judicial branches. Bush has used the authority more frequently than some but not all of his most recent predecessors, making 171 so far, compared with 140 for President Clinton over two terms, 77 by his father in one term and 243 by President Reagan during two terms.

Some of Bush's more notable recess appointments include John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton arrived at the U.N. in August 2005 after being appointed during a congressional recess because he twice failed to be confirmed by the Senate. Still unable to get Senate backing, he stepped down in December.

Others include include William Pryor and Charles Pickering as federal appeals court judges, in 2004, and Otto Reich as an assistant secretary of state, in 2002.

Fox, a 77-year-old St. Louis businessman, gave $50,000 to the Swift Boat group. He is national chairman of the Jewish Republican Coalition and was dubbed a "ranger" by Bush's 2004 campaign for raising at least $200,000. He is founder and chairman of the Clayton-based Harbour Group, which specializes in the takeover of manufacturing companies.

Fox has donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes since the 1990s.

In answer to questions about the Swift Boat donation, Fox has said he gives when asked, insisting he was not involved with the writing of the ad scripts and never saw them before they aired but had been aware of the general thrust of the group.

Fox issued a statement saying he is "delighted and honored" to accept the ambassadorial appointment.

"As the son of a man who fled Europe to find freedom and a better life, I am especially humbled by the opportunity to return to that continent as this nation's representative," he said.