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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Dutch Treat: Ameriquest's Roland Arnall Reaps His Reward

Ameriquest Capital owner/CEO Roland Arnall and his wife Dawn have contributed more than $10 million to various candidates and committees in the last several years. As Al Kamen of The Washington Post reports, the millions in political seed money the Arnalls have sown have blossomed into an ambassadorship to the Netherlands. (The White House website didn't have the announcement up yet when I checked, and Kamen informs me the announcement is not yet official.) (It's now official . . . . )

A list of the Arnalls' political contributions includes:
- $5 million to the 527 group Progress for America Fund, which spent tens of millions of dollars on ads attacking John Kerry during the 2004 election (Dawn);
- $1 million to the 2005 Inaugural Fund (Ameriquest and three of its subsidiaries);
- $500,000 to the Democratic National Committee (Dawn and Roland);
- $1 million to the Republican National Committee for State Elections (Dawn); and
- Hosted a Bush Fundraiser which brought in more than $1 million.

For starters. The Arnalls and Co. are also some of Arnold Schwarzenegger's biggest fans, having contributed over $1.3 million to Schwarzenegger and his committees since 2003.

Arnall is not alone in using dollars to land an ambassador gig - more than two dozen major Bush donors have been awarded such positions. While wealth may not be the best factor on which to base ambassador selections, Arnall's political spending poses a bigger problem for American democracy than whether he can tell the salad fork from the shrimp fork at state dinners.

It is unlikely the Arnalls made any of their political contributions contingent upon one of them receiving an ambassadorship, or even favorable legislation from President Bush or one of the more than twenty other candidates their millions have supported. Presumably the Arnalls, just like nearly everyone else, give money to candidates who already support the positions that the Arnalls like. This in turn gives those candidates an advantage over candidates supported by regular folks in the middle class or with more modest means.

When rich folks get to make contributions that the rest of us can't afford, they end up with more say in the political process, and with their candidates in office. Rich folks should take part in the political process - it's just that when they do, they and the candidates they support should be competing on the same level as the rest of us. And if they want to stare at windmills or tulips or have a fresh Heineken, they should buy a plane ticket just like everyone else.

**UPDATE**
See this story in the Canton Repository by Paul Krawzak about William Timken, another big-time Bush donor whose donations have paid off with an ambassadorship.

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