WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday announced his intent to nominate Long Island attorney, businessman and fundraiser George J. Tsunis to be the U.S. ambassador to Greece, giving him a second chance to join the diplomatic corps.
Tsunis, 53, of Matinecock, withdrew from his nomination by President Barack Obama to be ambassador to Norway seven years ago after he stumbled during his confirmation hearing and became a symbol of unprepared political donors tapped for ambassadorships.
"With his deep connections in the Greek American community, his ability to speak the language, and his knowledge of Greek history and culture, George Tsunis is an outstanding choice and will serve our country well as ambassador to Greece," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate majority leader.
Tsunis also has the support of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which holds hearings on the nominees for ambassadorships.
Tsunis served for two years, until January 2020, as chairman of NuHealth, also known as the Nassau Health Care Corp., which operates Nassau University Medical Center, the only public hospital in Nassau County.
During his tenure, Tsunis dismantled political patronage in employment, ousted the coffee shop operator for nonpayment of bills, and led a board-negotiated contract for more than 3,000 employees amid NuHealth’s persistent deficits and troubled finances.
Tsunis is also chairman of the Battery Park City Authority; a director of the New York Convention Center’s Operating Committee, which oversees the Javits Center; and a founding member of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
Tsunis is founder, chairman and CEO of Chartwell Hotels LLC, which owns, develops and manages hotels throughout the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states.
A graduate of New York University and St. John’s University School of Law, he has worked as a partner and of counsel at Rivkin Radler LLP in Uniondale, and as a legislative attorney for the New York City Council.
Tsunis has also been a generous political donor who switched from supporting Republicans — giving $50,000 to Arizona Sen. John McCain's presidential bid in 2008 — to Democrats after Obama won, raising $998,550 for Obama and $300,000 for the party’s super PACs.
Since 2014, Tsunis has given about $650,000 to politicians, including $127,000 to Menendez’s political campaign committees.
Tsunis has also donated money to eight of the 22 Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including a contribution of $4,300 to the committee’s ranking Republican, Idaho Sen. Jim Risch.
In a January 2014 hearing, McCain made an example of Tsunis, who Obama nominated to be ambassador to Norway in September 2013.
In his hearing, Tsunis conceded that he had never visited Norway, mistakenly called Norway's prime minister a "president" and described the Progress Party as "fringe elements" that "spew their hatred," even though that party was at the time in Norway's coalition government.
In December 2014, Tsunis withdrew his nomination.