Sam Fox

Update on the Sam Fox Recess Appointment

I stand corrected on my post from April 4th. Sam Fox, under Bush's recess appointment, would not receive a paycheck as Ambassador to Belgium. He would still receive security, meals, transportation, and insurance, of course. But he would be serving as a volunteer employee.

Ironically, volenteering for a Federal job might violate the law, and John Kerry and his colleagues on the SFRC have asked the General Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate.

The Federal code varies by department, but I was able to find a decent summary from the US Geological Survey:

Policy: The basic rule (contained in 31 U.S.C. 1342) is that no person may provide unpaid service to the Federal Government or be employed without pay or with the understanding that he or she will waive pay, unless covered in the exceptions [for the USGS, an exception would be a volunteer student or someone who volunteered to assist in an emergency]. Federal agencies are required by law to pay employees serving in authorized positions.

As Ice Cube once said....."it ain't over motherfuckers."

The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General
Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548

Dear Mr. Walker:

We write to request that the Government Accountability Office examine a particular aspect of the legality of the Bush Administration's recent recess appointment of Mr. Sam Fox as Ambassador to Belgium. We view the recess appointment of Mr. Fox as a clear abuse of the President's recess appointment power, 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. We would, therefore, appreciate your formal opinion on this issue.

By way of background, on January 7, 2007, the President nominated Mr. Sam Fox to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belgium. A hearing on his nomination was held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, February 27, 2007. The Senate Committee had placed Mr. Fox's nomination on the agenda for a Business Meeting on March 28, 2007. Shortly before the Business Meeting convened, however, the President withdrew the nomination of Mr. Fox from the Senate.

The Senate then went into recess on March 29, 2007. On April 4, 2007, while the Senate was in recess, and after Mr. Fox's nomination had been withdrawn, the Bush Administration recess-appointed Mr. Fox as Ambassador to Belgium.

Under 5 U.S.C. § 5503, in order for Mr. Fox to be paid for his services as Ambassador, his nomination would have to have been pending before the Senate on March 29th, when the Senate went into recess. Moreover, according to a separate statute, 31 U.S.C. § 1342, the U.S. Government cannot accept "voluntary services" from individuals except in an emergency.

As we understand it, there are some exceptions to this prohibition. For example, "voluntary services" may be permitted if an agreement is made between the individual and the government agency in question that no later claim to compensation will be made. In the case of Mr. Fox, however, it appears that the "voluntary services" prohibition would still apply because the position in question is a statutory entitlement with a fixed rate of pay that cannot be waived (Section 401 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 mandates a fixed rate of pay for the position of Ambassador).

There appears to be a clear conflict between the pay restrictions as enumerated in Title 5 of the United States Code, which prevent Mr. Fox from being paid due to the circumstances of his recess appointment, and the "voluntary services" provision of Title 31 of the United States Code, which mandates that the United States Department of State cannot accept "voluntary services" for the position to which Mr. Fox has been recess appointed.

Given the time-sensitivity of this matter, we request that the GAO urgently examine the following aspects of this case and provide its findings/recommendations as quickly as possible:

* Would Mr. Fox's service as Ambassador, if unpaid, be considered "voluntary service" within the meaning of 31 U.S.C. § 1342? If not, why not?

* Is there a conflict between statutes when it comes to Mr. Fox providing "voluntary services"? If so, how should they be reconciled?

* If the United States Senate defeats the nomination of Mr. Fox, would Mr. Fox's recess appointment continue through the current session of the Congress, or would it be terminated?

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this request. We look forward to your findings and recommendations.


Christopher J. Dodd John F. Kerry Robert. P Casey, Jr.

Bush Forces Sam Fox Through as Ambassador to Belgium

And then heads to Crawford for yet another vacation.

President Bush just left Washington for Crawford, where he will remain through Sunday. This is Bush's 63rd trip to Crawford since taking office in January 2001. He has spent over 365 full vacation days in Crawford.

Anyway, in a slap to the Senate and John Kerry, Bush forced the appointment of millionaire conservative businessman Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium this afternoon. John Fox was a major financer of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign against John Kerry. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee blocked his confirmation last month, leading Fox to withdraw his nomination on March 28th.

But now we know what Bush had planned. This appointment while Congress is on-break puts Fox in Brussels (and I'm sure frequent weekends in Paris) through the end of Bush's term in January 2009. So like John Bolton, Mr. Fox is an ambassador with a limited life span, but with a nice series of paychecks until the day he is finally booted out.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake points out that Fox is friends with Joe Lieberman.

Here is Senator Kerry confronting Mr. Fox on the Swift Boat funding back in February of this year. I'm sure Mr. Fox writes 5-figure checks to strangers all the time. What's the fuss?

UPDATE: The sole Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd, is questioning the legality of this recess appointment. That's a stretch, but I applaud his reaction. He released the following statement:

“It is outrageous that the President has sought to stealthily appoint Sam Fox to the position of ambassador to Belgium when the President formally requested that the Fox nomination be withdrawn from the Senate because it was facing certain defeat in the Foreign Relations Committee last week. I seriously question the legality of the President's use of the recess appointment authority in this instance. I intend to seek an opinion on the legality of this appointment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and invite other Senators to join with me in that request. This is underhanded and an abuse of Executive authority -- sadly this behavior has become the hallmark of this administration.”