Largely rooted out of the American political atmosphere in the 19th and 20th centuries, the spoils system rewarded a party's supporters with government jobs if its candidate won an election.
Today, civil service is based on merit, but there's one position in government where it pays to know the president: ambassadorships.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that President Barack Obama is considering nominating chief fundraiser and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour to be the next U.S. ambassador to either the U.K. or France. Wintour's reps have denied she has any interest in leaving Vogue.
Wintour, 63, raised over $500,000 for Obama during the 2012 election, hosting a number of $35,000+-per-plate events that were attended by a who's who of entertainment heavyweights.
The fashion icon, striking a similar chord to the one she hit when approached about ambassadorship rumors this past June and in 2009, said through a spokesperson that she has no interest in leaving Vogue, where she claims to be very happy.
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Not everyone is equally pleased about the possibility of Wintour -- who has no foreign service experience -- serving as a diplomatic liaison.
Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, believes that despite Wintour's energy and intelligence -- she's not cut out for international affairs.
"Having experience in the practice of diplomacy and international relations is really a great advantage," Johnson told Bloomberg.
According to Johnson, President Obama has chosen slightly over 30 percent of his ambassadors from outside of the career foreign service. The fact that the president has decreased the portion of non-foreign service professionals disappoints Johnson and her organization.
"When he ran for election in 2008, on several occasions, Obama declared his intent to appoint more career people, and that has not actually happened,” said Johnson. “Our expectations were lifted, only to be dashed by reality.”
For stewardship over the London envoy, Wintour will face stiff competition. Bloomberg reports that the president is also vetting Matthew Barzun, who served as his finance chairman during his reelection campaign. Like Wintour, Barzun bundled over $500,000 for the president, though he has foreign service experience, formerly serving as U.S. ambassador to Sweden. He was also an executive at CNET Networks Business Technology.
The U.S.'s current ambassador to the U.K., Louis Susman, a chicago-based investment banker, is also a top Obama campaign bundler. Like ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney (owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and ambassador to France Charles Rivkin (former chief of executive of Jim Henson Co.), Susman isn't expected to stay on for a second term.
Marc Lasry, the managing partner and founder of Avenue Capital Management, is said to be the leading candidate to replace Rivkin in Paris.
If Wintour were to head to London, she'd be squatting in some royal digs. The U.S.'s official residence in that city, Winfield House, has a sweeping lawn and was sold to the nation by Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton. Obama has hosted Chinese President Hu Jintao, Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Philip at the home.