Bush recess appoints major Swift Boat Vets donor
Michael Roston
Published: Wednesday April 4, 2007
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President George W. Bush circumvented Senate opposition today and recess appointed a controversial nominee as Ambassador to Belgium. Sam Fox, who donated thousands of dollars to the anti-John Kerry Swift Boat Veterans For Truth before the 2004 Presidential election, received the nod from the White House in a quiet personnel announcement this afternoon that caught Senate Democrats off guard.

President Bush had formally withdrawn Fox's nomination last week when it appeared likely that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would reject it and prevent him from receiving a full vote on the Senate floor. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) issued a strong response shortly before boarding an airplane late in the day, questioning the legal basis for the action.

"I seriously question the legality of the President's use of the recess appointment authority in this instance," said the senior Senator from Connecticut, and presidential candidate. "This is underhanded and an abuse of Executive authority -- sadly this behavior has become the hallmark of this administration."

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who squared off with Fox in a February confirmation hearing, offered similar words, comparing Fox's appointment with Michael Brown, the former FEMA head who mishandled the response to Hurricane Katrina.

"When it comes to getting body armor for our soldiers or relief for New Orleans, they're AWOL, but they'll move heaven and earth to reward a smear," he said. "Today's move shows it is wedded to the politics of personal character assassination that they are willing to take unprecedented steps to reward donor Sam Fox with an Ambassdorship."

Kerry also assailed the legality of the move.

"Never before has a president used a recess appointment to support a withdrawn nominee. Every time this White House shows that if they can't win the game, they just change the rules, our democracy and the Constitution loses," he said.

Bush's appointment of Fox while Congress is in recess will allow the Ambassador to serve until the end of the President's term in office in 2009.

Dodd said he intended to solicit an opinion of the Government Accountability Office on the legality of the move.

In 2004, Fox gave $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a "527" political group that targeted Senator Kerry's military service record during the presidential election. The group paid a large fine to the Federal Election Commission late in 2006. In his February confirmation hearing, Fox admitted that Kerry was a "hero" but continued to justify his donations to the group.