WASHINGTON — Long Island businessman and political fundraiser George Tsunis is being considered for the post of U.S. ambassador to Greece, despite his withdrawal in 2014 for a posting in Norway after he stumbled in his confirmation hearing.
President Joe Biden is considering nominating Tsunis, 53, of Matinecock, at the urging of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which vets and approves ambassador nominations, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
Menendez declined to comment. "It’s our office’s policy that we do not comment on anyone who may or may not be considered for any post until and if a nomination formally made," said Menendez spokesman Steven Sandberg.
If nominated, Tsunis, an attorney and the founder and CEO of Chartwell Hotels, would join the long list of major fundraisers winning jobs at U.S. embassies around the world after he gave about $650,000 to politicians, including $127,000 to Menendez’s committees, since 2014.
The impending appointment represents a comeback by Tsunis, who was held up seven years ago by the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as a symbol of the many campaign fundraisers nominated for ambassadorships even though they were ill-prepared to do the job.
At his confirmation hearing, Tsunis 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.
Tsunis, the son of first generation Greek immigrants, could be a better fit for an ambassadorship to Greece than he was for Norway, which he conceded he had never visited when he appeared at his confirmation hearing in 2014.
Active in the American Greek community, Tsunis, for example, was named by the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America as co-vice chairman of this year’s 200th anniversary celebration of Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire.
Tsunis also is known for his largesse for politicians.
A member of a family of active Republicans, Tsunis donated $50,000 to McCain's presidential bid in 2008, but after Obama won he became a Democrat and raised $998,550 for Obama and gave $300,000 to Democrats’ super PACs.
Since his failed bid to become U.S. ambassador to Norway in 2014, Tsunis has contributed $101,000 to Menendez leadership PACs and $26,000 to his campaign funds, as well as $10,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, FEC filings show.
Tsunis also has 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.
Tsunis also is chairman of the Battery Park City Authority; a director of the New York Convention Center’s Operating Committee, which oversees the Jacob Javits Center, and a founding member of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
He also served for two years, until January 2020, as chairman of NuHealth, or the Nassau Health Care Corp., which operates Nassau University Medical Center, the only public hospital in Nassau County.