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US eyes car mogul for ambassador post

The United States government is in the process of confirming a new ambassador to Slovakia to fill the post which will be vacated by Ambassador Ralph Johnson after a three-year stay. Though it is not official, press reports confirmed by sources close to the process say that the man being looked at for the job is Carl Spielvogel, a New York-based car mogul and a major contributor to the Democratic Party.
The US embassy in Slovakia would not comment on Spielvogel's candidacy, nor would the Slovak Foreign Ministry. The United States National Security council confirmed that a candidate is going through the vetting process. "But until he is presented for Presidential approval his name will not be announced to the public,'' said P.J. Crowley, National Security Council spokesman.


Current US Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson
photo: Vladimír Hák-Profit

The United States government is in the process of confirming a new ambassador to Slovakia to fill the post which will be vacated by Ambassador Ralph Johnson after a three-year stay. Though it is not official, press reports confirmed by sources close to the process say that the man being looked at for the job is Carl Spielvogel, a New York-based car mogul and a major contributor to the Democratic Party.

The US embassy in Slovakia would not comment on Spielvogel's candidacy, nor would the Slovak Foreign Ministry. The United States National Security council confirmed that a candidate is going through the vetting process. "But until he is presented for Presidential approval his name will not be announced to the public,'' said P.J. Crowley, National Security Council spokesman.

From 1994-1997, Spielvogel was the chairman and CEO of the United Auto Group, the second-largest new car retailer in the US. The company owns over 100 car sale franchises throughout America, and also sells parts and grants car loans. Its total revenues during the first nine months of 1998 rose 62% to $2.51 billion, according to the company's web site.

Spielvogel was a major contributor to Clinton's 1996 Presidential campaign, according to the campaign finance investigation conducted by the Washington Post. His $126,000 donation, given under the auspices of the United Auto group, earned him the right to sleep in the White House as an overnight guest, the paper reported. In doing so, his name became involved in what became known in the as the "Lincoln Bedroom" scandal, in which Clinton was shown to have used promises of stays in the White House to woo or reward big donors. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg ($210,000), and Apple computer head Steven Jobs, ($100,000) were among the prominent overnight visitors.

Spielvogel is a philanthropist who favours the fields of fine art and writing. Along with his wife, he sponsors a yearly essay contest through the PEN American Center which "aims to preserve the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature."

In the 15 years he has served as chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's business committee, he has raised more than $70 million, the New York Post reported. A lecture series was recently named after him.

Though Spielvogel has not held an official government posts, he is listed as one of eight official "members" of the management committee of the United States Information Agency.

According to a New York Magazine article about his candidacy, Spielvogel was offered a posting in Estonia two years ago, which he turned down, and has also in the past been mentioned as a possible emissary to Belgium.

Spielvogel could not be reached for comment.

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