Gordon Sondland, Donald Trump’s ambassador to the EU, is center stage in the impeachment inquiry. He’s a major, long-time Republican donor who is married to a Democrat, but he hasn’t always been a fan of Trump.
He’s a self-made, free-market advocating, Ayn Rand-admiring hotelier whose family escaped Nazi Germany. Fortune magazine described Sondland as “a bundler for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign who supported Jeb Bush in 2015.” He has a more complicated relationship with Trump.
Politico labeled Sondland a “long-time establishment Republican.” On his website, Sondland describes himself as a “Portland businessman and philanthropist.” He has deep ties to the Bush family, serving as national finance co-chairman for the George W. Bush Center and on a leadership team for Jeb Bush’s failed presidential run.
However, it’s a bit more complicated that that. According to Fortune, Oregon Democrats considered Sondland “politically flexible, not ideological,” and he and his wife, a Democrat, donated to both parties.
His entry on Open Secrets.org shows major donations to the Republican National Committee, Republican Party of Oregon, local candidates like Republican House candidate Robert Cornilles, but also some Democrats, like former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington and Ron Wyden, Oregon’s Democratic Senator. He’s supported the Republican apparatus, such as the RNC, though, as well as Republican presidential candidates like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain.
Open Secrets tallied up Sondland’s donations over the years. “He has given more than $446,000 to federal candidates and groups, 94 percent of which went to Republican causes,” the site reported.
“Sondland was listed as one of Trump’s bundlers in 2016. And after Trump won, he funneled $1 million into Trump’s inaugural committee through four different LLCs,” OpenSecrets reported. “Political donors and bundlers are often selected to ambassador and diplomat positions, with the cushiest jobs going to the most generous givers.”
According to Oregon Live, Sondland has drawn scrutiny for his text message to Bill Taylor (the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine) in which he defended Trump. Secondly, he traveled to Ukraine several times since June 2019, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, even though that country is not part of the European Union, the newspaper reported. He’s also part of a whistleblower’s report over the meetings, with Kurt Volker, the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine. The whistleblower claimed that Sondland’s role was to “navigate the demands that the president had made of” Zelensky.
Sondland is married to Katherine Durant. He and his wife run the Sondland Durant Foundation. Its website says “The Gordon D. Sondland and Katherine J. Durant Foundation was founded in 1999 by Gordon Sondland & Katherine Durant. The organizations supported by the Foundation include the Portland Art Museum, OMSI, OHSU, New Avenues for Youth, Oregon Ballet Theatre, the Portland Parks Foundation.” Durant served under three Democratic governors on the Oregon Investment Council.
Here’s what you need to know about Gordon Sondland’s politics:
Sondland Once Called Donald Trump a ‘Hell of a Lot of Fun’ But He Hasn’t Been a Consistent Supporter of the President
Sondland spoke about Trump to a Politico podcast in which he also advocated for the free market. “He’s a hell of a lot of fun,” Sondland said, of Trump, indicating that he thinks Europeans have been too hard on the president. “I think they would enjoy his company.”
Sondland is so pro free market that, according to Vice, he once gave his wife a first-edition copy of Ayn Rand’s seminal book Atlas Shrugged.
However, Sondland and his wife have had issues with Trump. According to Oregon Live, after initially supporting Trump during his run for president once Trump was the Republican nominee, they broke with him when he criticized Gold Star Father Khizr Khan. That occurred despite Sondland agreeing to be Oregon’s state chairman of financing for Trump and the Republican National Committee. “Trump’s constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels,” their spokesperson said, according to Oregon Live.
The spokesperson also said, according to Willamette Week: “Mr. Sondland is a first generation American whose parents were forced to flee Germany during the years leading up to World War II because they were persecuted for their faith…Historically, Mr. Sondland has been supportive of the Republican party’s nominees for President. However, in light of Mr. Trump’s treatment of the Khan family and the fact his constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels, neither Mr. Sondland or Mr. Wali can support his candidacy.”
Sondland Is a Wealthy GOP Donor Who Donated a Lot of Money to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
Sondland is a major GOP donor and, with $60 million or so net worth, he has the money to do it.
Politico described Sondland as a “self-made, multimillionaire hotel magnate from the Pacific Northwest.” His company, Politico reports, is called Provenance Hotels, and it’s known for “refurbishing and reimagining old, historic buildings. Sondland “owns stakes” in for hotels located in downtown Portland: the Lucia, deLuxe, Sentinel and Westin,” according to Willamette Week.
Some of Sondland’s properties are the Healthman Hotel, Sentinel Hotel and Hotel Preston, according to Politico. His LinkedIn page says he attended the University of Washington from 1975 to 1978.
According to Oregon Live, he’s also affiliated with Aspen Capital, described by the newspaper as “a Portland-based hard-money lender.” Vice reports that Gordon Sondland is a long-time GOP donor whose governmental experience was largely working on an Oregon board to “bring television and movie production to the state.”
Sondland later changed his mind on Trump. “Gordon Sondland, the chairman of Provenance Hotels and a big supporter of the extended Bush family (including former President George W.), gave $1 million to the inaugural committee through four LLCs,” Open Secrets.org reported.
Sondland Supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 Presidential Primary & Served on Mitt Romney’s Transition Team
Sondland was initially a supporter of Trump foe Jeb Bush. He was listed as a member of the Jeb Bush Jewish Leadership Committee. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor led the group, according to The Sun-Sentinel.
The foundation’s news page also showcases several events involving George W. Bush and Sondland Durant. For example, a 2012 article declared, “Sondland-Durant Facilitates Auction for Ford F-150 Owned By President George W. Bush At Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale.” The goal was to raise money for vets.
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