Mark Gilbert, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser from Boca Raton, may be on his way to New Zealand and Samoa.
The White House said last year Gilbert was the pick. But along with some 200 other nominations, it was stalled as Republicans ground the approval process to a halt in the Senate.
On Monday evening, the White House said the nomination was formally sent again to the Senate with a long list of others.
Officially, he’s nominated to be “Ambassador Extraordinary and
Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to New Zealand, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Independent State of Samoa.”
New Zealand has a population of 4.4 million in an area about the size of Colorado, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. Nearby Samoa’s population is just under 200,000. Broward and Palm Beach counties have a combined population of 3.2 million.
Gilbert, a director at Barclays Wealth in Palm Beach, declined to comment Tuesday. Presidential nominees aren’t allowed to talk to reporters before they’re confirmed.
Gilbert, 57, is prominent in national Democratic fundraising circles.
He was an early, influential supporter of Obama's presidential candidacy, signing on early in 2007, when most South Florida Democrats were supporting Hillary Clinton.
He served on Obama’s national finance committee in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2011 and 2012. After Obama became president, Gilbert served as deputy national finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2013. Since 2007, raised at least $1.2 million, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
He was finance chairman for Ron Klein’s 2006 congressional campaign, in which Klein raised millions and defeated then-U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale. Gilbert also served on the national finance committee for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.
He played high school baseball at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, college ball at Florida State University, then spent seven years in the minor leagues, according to the Big Book of Jewish Baseball.
In 1985 he played seven games as an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox. He hit .273 and scored three runs, according to MLB.com. The Big Book of Jewish Baseball said a knee injury ended Gilbert’s baseball career.
He’s also been active in the Jewish philanthropic community.
Politics runs in the family. His daughter, Dani Gilbert, is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
In a 2009 interview, Gilbert explained how he went about figuring out which candidate he’d support in the 2008 presidential election.
He considered considering several other actual or potential Democratic candidates. He'd met Obama before 2007. But he met with the then-Illinois senator in Washington, D.C., for about 45 minutes in February 2007, a week before Obama declared his presidential candidacy.
In the taxi on the way back to his hotel, Gilbert said, he called his wife and told her he was convinced that Obama was the one.
The Center for Public Integrity, an independent, nonpartisan reporting organization, found Obama has made an “aggressive push to elevate major bundlers and loyalists to top diplomatic jobs.”
In the first 10 months of 2013, the Center reported 46 percent of Obama’s nominees have been career diplomats, 30 percent were campaign fundraisers, and the rest have been political allies. “Recent presidents have named political appointees to roughly one-third of ambassadorships, according to the American Foreign Service Association, the labor union and trade association for career diplomats,” the center said.
South Florida hasn’t produced a large crop of ambassadors.
Kirk Wagar, a lawyer and prominent Democratic fundraiser from Miami, who served as Obama’s Florida finance chairman in 2008 and 2012, was sworn in as ambassador to Singapore on Sept. 4, 2013.