The unspoken question on every big donor's lips: "How much do I have to give - really - to get appointed to a desirable diplomatic post by the president?"
Like all modern presidents before him, President Barack Obama has appointed friends and donors to about 30% of diplomatic
posts, often in glamorous and undangerous locales in Europe and Asia.
Sources involved in the diplomatic selection process say competition for these posts is so tight this year, and Obama's network of big donors and bundlers so vast, that those who have raised less than a million dollars are unlikely to be considered.
In a recent study, two researchers - Johannes W Fedderke and Dennis C Jett, both professors of international relations at Pennsylvania State University - computed theoretical prices for different postings.
Fedderke and Jett theorise that the most desirable postings are those to countries "that are not obscure, dangerous, poor or of low interest to tourists." Where "political campaign contributions (financial or otherwise) exercise an influence on the nature of posting received," the desirability of a posting should correspond to the size of the campaign contribution.
The researchers compared available information on donors' direct political contributions and "bundling" - money raised on behalf of Obama by supporters - with data on the national income of host countries, their relative level of safety, and the robustness of their ourist industries.
The authors found that politically connected ambassadors, including former aides as well as donors, were statistically more likely to be posted to countries in the Caribbean, North America and Central America. But those whose political connections to Obama were measured in dollars, rather than administration service, had an increased chance of representing the US in Western Europe and a markedly smaller chance of serving in, say, Central Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.
The study found that political ambassadors who had made campaign donations of $550,000, or bundled contributions of $750,000, had a 90% chance of being posted to a country in Western Europe.