Trump selects Rakolta for UAE ambassador
President Donald Trump on Tuesday nominated Bloomfield Hills businessman and Republican fundraiser John Rakolta Jr. to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
Rakolta has worked as the chairman and chief executive of the Walbridge construction company in Detroit since 1993 and more recently has served as co-chair of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit School Children.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his nomination, which will require approval by the Senate.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven states that has quickly developed into an economic hub for the Middle East. It is located on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Rakolta was a fundraiser for Trump during the general election campaign after supporting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the Michigan primary and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush before that. The business executive and members of his family donated more than $260,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fund set up by the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee.
In early July, Rakolta told The Detroit News that he traveled to Chicago and met with Trump one-on-one at one of Trump’s hotels before agreeing to be a fundraiser.
Rakolta attended Trump’s election night party in New York City when the real estate mogul became the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988.
He also gave $250,000 for Trump’s inauguration.
Rakolta is the uncle-in-law to Republican National Committee chief Ronna Romney McDaniel, who chaired Michigan’s Republican Party when Trump got elected. McDaniel is the daughter of Ronna Romney, who is the sister of Rakolta’s wife, Terry.
Trump has tapped several local allies to serve as foreign ambassadors, including former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (the Netherlands), Suburban Collection Chairman and CEO David Fischer (Morocco) and consultant Joseph Cella (Fiji).
Rakolta, an influential businessman and top GOP fundraiser, served as finance chair for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012.