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Nominations could bolster limited ranks of openly gay ambassadors

Nominations could bolster limited ranks of openly gay ambassadors

WASHINGTON — Handing plum European posts to key campaign boosters, President Barack Obama on Friday nominated his former finance director to be U.S. ambassador to Denmark and tapped two major fundraisers for postings in Spain and Germany.

Rufus Gifford (left) and James Costos

Fundraising guru Rufus Gifford, who raised upward of $700 million as the head of Obama’s 2012 finance operation and held a similar job previously at the Democratic National Committee, is Obama’s pick for Denmark, the White House said. Obama selected James Costos, a vice president of HBO, as his envoy to Spain.

If confirmed by the Senate, Gifford and Costos would bolster the limited ranks of ambassadors in U.S. history who have been openly gay. When Obama took office in 2009, only two previous ambassadors had been openly gay. Friday’s nominations mark the fifth and sixth, gay rights groups said.

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly gay candidates, hailed the nominations and sa id they would clear the way for more gay Americans to achieve prominent positions in public service.

Obama also said he had selected John Emerson, an investment manager and former White House official, as his envoy to Germany.

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Both Costos and Emerson were listed in public disclosures as bundlers, meaning they raised more than $500,000 from others to benefit Obama’s campaign. Federal Election Commission records show Costos donated more than $67,000 to efforts to re-elect Obama in 2012.

Ken Hackett, who stepped down last year as the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, is Obama’s pick to be the U.S. emissary to the Vatican. Hackett worked extensively in Africa coordinating Catholic charitable programs on the continent.

Patricia Marie Haslach, a veteran diplomat who has worked in Iraq, Pakistan and Laos, is Obama’s pick to be ambassador to Ethiopia. He nominated Liliana Ayalde, another State Department official with experience throughout Latin and Ce ntral America, for the top post in Brazil. Both Haslach and Ayalde have held the rank of ambassador before.

Earlier this week, Obama named Daniel Baer — a former Georgetown professor and current Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor — to be ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), based in Vienna.

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