|Ameriquest Capital founder and co-chairman has been nominated by President George Bush to be ambassador to the Netherlands. But critics covering the nomination suggest the tycoon may have bought the coveted appointment with millions of dollars in campaign contributions.
Internet Web sites, Blogs, political finance watchdog groups and the media are buzzing with chatter that Roland Arnall's generosity toward politicians and political organizations had a big impact on the White House when it came time for nominate him for the post, which must be confirmed by the Senate.
The White House actually said little other than announcing the appointment and indicating that Bush feels Arnall is qualified for the position through his community service and career growing his company from its founding in 1979 to the nation's largest subprime lender.
Ameriquest did not return a phone call to comment on Arnall's appointment. Other media reported that the company issued a short statement that Arnall was humbled and honored to be nominated.
But plenty of others commented on the nomination.
Public Citizen, a political spending watch dog group, said Arnall and his wife Dawn have given Bush and organizations that support him with direct campaign spending, the so-called 527 groups, more than $12 million in just the last three years.
The contributions include $5.5 million to Bush's reelection campaign and $5 million to the Progress America 527 group, which ran ads supporting Bush's reelection, according to Public Citizen.
Ameriquest and three of its subsidiaries -- Town and Country Credit, Argent Mortgage Co. and Long Beach Acceptance Corp. -- contributed $1 million to Bush's second inaugural.
"This inauguration is bought and paid for by corporate America," Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. "These businesses consider such gifts to be investments, with payback expected. Not surprisingly, many of the corporate givers received huge legislative and regulatory favors from the first Bush term and are looking for even more over the next four years. They also get invited to events, where they can schmooze with Cabinet members and administration officials and lobby on their issues."
The Rest of Us.org, another campaign watchdog group, points out that the Arnalls also give money to Democrats. And they've given California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his campaign committees more than $1.3 million since 2003.
"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," the group said. "Presumably, the Arnalls, just like nearly everyone else, give money to candidates who already support the positions that the Arnalls like."
But money does by access to politicians.
"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," The Rest of Us said in a statement.
According to the White House statement, Arnall has served two terms as a trustee of the California State University System and is the founding co-chairman and board member of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.
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