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Ex-ambassador to Canada reaps high corporate compensation

By Laurie Bennett

April 20, 2011 at 8:48am

Which U.S. ambassador positions are most lucrative for appointees who later re-enter the business world?

A post in Canada, our biggest trade partner, brings plenty of future earnings potential.

Gordon D. Giffin, named to the job by President Bill Clinton, received more than $990,000 (Canadian) last year in cash, stock and other compensation for his work on four Canadian corporate boards.

Gordon D. Giffin
Gordon D. Giffin

Giffin, who lives in Atlanta, GA, is a director of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadian National Railway Company, TransAlta Corporation and Canadian Natural Resources Limited. (He was also a director of the former Just Energy Income Fund, based in Ontario. The company reorganized in December as Just Energy Group Inc.)

He previously served as a director of Quebec-based newsprint maker AbitibiBowater Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Giffin is a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, working out of the firm’s offices in Atlanta and Washington, DC. He served as ambassador to Canada from 1997 to 2001. Earlier in his career, he was legislative director and chief counsel to Sen. Sam Nunn.

As the State Department job helped boost both his connections and his income, he has shared the wealth. Giffin has donated money to the William J. Clinton Foundation and was a fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Giffin isn’t currently registered as a lobbyist, although he was until 2008, when his clients included TransCanada Pipelines.

His law firm has represented the provincial governments of Quebec and Manitoba, the Canadian-American Business Council and Ontario-based Research in Motion Ltd.

Note: Giffin isn’t the only former U.S. ambassador to Canada who has pursued related business opportunities after leaving office. See our March 28 story on the lobbying activities of Koch Industries.

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