George Tsunis of Cold Spring Harbor nominated to be ambassador to Norway

A photo of George Tsunis, of Cold Spring

A photo of George Tsunis, of Cold Spring Harbor, who was named ambassador to Norway. Photo Credit: John H. Cornell, 1993

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WASHINGTON -- George J. Tsunis, a Long Island businessman who switched political parties to become a major Democratic fundraiser in the last election, was nominated by President Barack Obama on Tuesday as ambassador to Norway.

It would be the first foray into international diplomacy for Tsunis, 45, of Cold Spring Harbor, who is managing director of Chartwell Hotels, manages his family's portfolio of real estate holdings and was a partner in the law firm Rivkin Radler.

"It's humbling and it is a high honor to be nominated by the president," he said Tuesday night.

Tsunis was named to replace attorney Barry B. White, U.S. ambassador to Norway since September 2009. The Senate must confirm his nomination.

Obama has named many of his major fundraisers as ambassadors, and Tsunis fits the pattern, said Craig Holman of the nonprofit Public Citizen, which seeks to limit the influence of money in politics.

Tsunis started his political work as an aide to Republican former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, of Lido Beach, and in 1993 he ran as a GOP candidate for the Suffolk County Legislature.

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In 2008 Tsunis contributed $50,000 to Republican John McCain's run for president.

Tsunis registered as a Democrat on Nov. 25, 2009. In last year's election, he raised $988,550 for Obama, and gave $300,000 to Democratic super PACs and $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign funds.

In New York, Tsunis and his wife, Olga, have given $115,000 to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign, state records show.

Jon Cooper, a former Suffolk County legislator and an early Long Island backer of Obama, said he first reached out to Tsunis during Obama's 2008 campaign.

"He doesn't just raise money," said Cooper. "I've been greatly impressed with his knowledge and expertise on a range of foreign policy issues."

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John Jay LaValle, Suffolk Republican chairman, noted Tsunis has not been very active in county politics recently and said, "He played his cards properly and is a well-liked guy."

Tsunis earned a bachelor of arts degree from New York University and a law degree from St. John's University. He has three children.

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