Fox re-named ambassador to Belgium

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

The battle still is not over for local businessman Sam Fox, the White House’s appointee for ambassador to Belgium.

On April 4, during a one-week break for the Senate, the White House used a recess appointment to name Fox ambassador, but Democrats who oppose Fox’s nomination are questioning the legality of the move, arguing that without Senate approval, Fox cannot be paid, and that federal law prohibits federal employees with a set salary from working for free.

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The White House defended the recess appointment.

“The President views recess appointments as an appropriate way to get people who are qualified into jobs that need to be filled,” said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe during a press briefing. “I think it was clear that people were putting the politics over the policy of needing to get an ambassador into Brussels, and so the President took his action there to get our ambassador in place — a qualified individual,” he said.

Fox said he is taking the controversy in stride. “This was basically all partisan politics, so for me it was like water off a duck’s back,” Fox said in an email interview with the Jewish Light. “Fortunately, it was never about my credentials for the job. Senator Kerry paid me a real compliment when he said my credentials were impressive,” he said.

Fox said he is already functioning as ambassador, in daily contact with the embassy in Brussels, although he said he is not planning to leave for Belgium for four-to-six weeks.

Fox was initially nominated earlier this year. On March 28, the White House withdrew its nomination of Fox for ambassador to Belgium, just hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled to vote on his appointment, because of opposition to Fox among committee Democrats.

Fox, 77, the national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, is a St. Louis businessman known throughout the community for his support of charitable causes and educational and cultural institutions. Fox had been criticized by opponents for refusing to apologize for a $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that attacked Sen. John Kerry’s military record during the 2004 Presidential Campaign.

“There was no need to apologize, because we live in a democracy,” Fox said. “Political contributions are commonplace, and there was certainly nothing illegal about what I did. I believe this is the first time a political contribution has stood in the way of a Senate confirmation,” he said.

Missouri Sen. Kit Bond has sharply criticized the Democratic opposition, and he said on Friday that he hopes Fox will regain backing from both parties.

“I was hopeful that the Democratic majority would recognize Sam Fox for the capable and qualified candidate he is. Unfortunately, he became the victim of a political vendetta,” Bond said. “Sam had bipartisan support going into the nomination process. While I am disappointed with the method, I hope this bipartisan support remains now that he has been appointed as ambassador by the president.”

Democrats roundly criticized the recess appointment of Fox.

In a statement, Kerry said, “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. This nomination was withdrawn because the Administration realized it would lose in the Foreign Relations Committee. Unfortunately, when this White House can’t win the game, they just change the rules, and America loses.”

Kerry, along with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Robert P. Casey, D-Penn., sent a letter to the General Accounting Office asking for an investigation of the legality of the recess appointment.

“We view the recess appointment of Mr. Fox as a clear abuse of the President’s recess appointment power,” the letter said, “but additionally think that Mr. Fox may be barred from taking the position of Ambassador, since the government is prohibited from accepting the voluntary services of an individual under 5 U.S.C. § 1342.”

The text of the letter is available appointment, because of opposition to Fox among committee Democrats.

Fox, 77, the national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, is a St. Louis businessman known throughout the community for his support of charitable causes and educational and cultural institutions. Fox had been criticized by opponents for refusing to apologize for a $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that attacked Sen. John Kerry’s military record during the 2004 Presidential Campaign.

“There was no need to apologize, because we live in a democracy,” Fox said. “Political contributions are commonplace, and there was certainly nothing illegal about what I did. I believe this is the first time a political contribution has stood in the way of a Senate confirmation,” he said.

Missouri Sen. Kit Bond has sharply criticized the Democratic opposition, and he said on Friday that he hopes Fox will regain backing from both parties.

“I was hopeful that the Democratic majority would recognize Sam Fox for the capable and qualified candidate he is. Unfortunately, he became the victim of a political vendetta,” Bond said. “Sam had bipartisan support going into the nomination process. While I am disappointed with the method, I hope this bipartisan support remains now that he has been appointed as ambassador by the president.”

Democrats roundly criticized the recess appointment of Fox.

In a statement, Kerry said, “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. This nomination was withdrawn because the Administration realized it would lose in the Foreign Relations Committee. Unfortunately, when this White House can’t win the game, they just change the rules, and America loses.”

Kerry, along with Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Robert P. Casey, D-Penn., sent a letter to the General Accounting Office asking for an investigation of the legality of the recess appointment.

“We view the recess appointment of Mr. Fox as a clear abuse of the President’s recess appointment power,” the letter said, “but additionally think that Mr. Fox may be barred from taking the position of Ambassador, since the government is prohibited from accepting the voluntary services of an individual under 5 U.S.C. § 1342.”

The text of the letter is available on Dodd’s Web site.

Amidst the controversy, Fox and his wife, Marilyn, are preparing for the trip to Brussels. Fox said they are excited about moving to Europe, and about living abroad.

“We haven’t officially resided anywhere but St. Louis,” Fox said. “I am not thoroughly acquainted with the ins and outs of Brussels as yet, but I certainly hope they have a Steak ‘n’ Shake or Ted Drewes there.”