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February 4, 2011 at 10:52 AM

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Cantwell vouched for "disaster" Stroum as ambassador

Posted by Jim Brunner

Update: 1 p.m. - Added details about Sen. Maria Cantwell pushing Stroum's nomination and Stroum's campaign contributions

Seattle businesswoman Cynthia Stroum landed a plum job in 2009 when she was named ambassador to Luxembourg, chiefly because of her political contributions to Barack Obama and other Democrats.

How'd that work out?

Not so well, the Associated Press reports:

As a supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama, Cynthia Stroum was a superstar whose financial backing of the campaign landed her a plum diplomatic posting in Europe.

As America's ambassador to Luxembourg, the wealthy Seattle-based businesswoman was a disaster.

According to an internal State Department report released Thursday, less than a week after she quit, Stroum's management of the U.S. Embassy in the tiny country was abysmal. The report says her tenure of about one year was fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor.

And there's more:

The situation was so bad that the inspector general recommended that the State Department dispatch medical personnel to Luxembourg to test the stress levels of embassy employees. It said at least four staffers quit or sought transfers to Iraq and Afghanistan during her tenure, unusual steps for diplomats assigned to a modern, Western European capital.

Read the whole AP story for even more embarrassing details.


Sen. Maria Cantwell praised Stroum as "a dear friend" at Stroum's confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009.

"I have known Cynthia for many years and I know that I can say this with experience, she will be an outstanding representative for our country," Cantwell said at the time.

Stroum had no diplomatic experience. She admitted at her confirmation hearing she hadn't been to Luxembourg.

In addition to being a "bundler" for the Obama campaign (meaning she raised at least $500,000 for his election), Stroum has been a big donor to local Democrats.

She contributed at least $6,800 to the campaigns of Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell since 2000.

Stroum is the daughter of the late Sam Stroum, a prominent Seattle businessman and Jewish-community leader who supported some of the city's biggest arts and educational institutions.

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