City developer’s bid to be ambassador to Norway off to rocky start

George Tsunis has helped change the landscape of downtown Williamsport with his business development ventures.

He’s earned plaudits from the community for building the Holiday Inn and Residence Inn Marriott.

All told, he’s brought millions of dollars in development to the city, and his business interests go well beyond Lycoming County.

But it was his remarks before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee that have earned him his most unwanted notoriety.

Tsunis, 46, founder and CEO of Chartwell Hotels, which owns, develops and manages Hilton, Marriott and Intercontinental hotels, is bidding to become the next ambassador to Norway.

Last week, in what could only be described as an embarrassing appearance before the committee he perhaps made many people think he should stay out of politics and stick with business.

Tsunis described Norway as having a president, apparently under the impression that the nation is a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy.

He also characterized the anti-immigration Progress Party as being among “fringe elements” who “spew their hatred” and have been denounced by the government.

That prompted Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. to inquire of Tsunis: “The government has denounced them? The coalition government – they’re part of the coalition of the government.”

Why does Tsunis want to be an ambassador to Norway?

The Sun-Gazette was unable to contact Tsunis to find out.

The better question might well be: Why is Tsunis even being considered for the post? Often in politics, it’s a pay-to-play game.

Tsunis reportedly raised $988,550 for President Barack Obama and gave $300,000 to Democratic super PACs and $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund.

He and his wife were guests at the State Dinner the Obamas threw in 2012 to honor British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Interestingly, he reportedly also contributed $50,000 to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

As of now, Tsunis doesn’t have the job of ambassador to Norway but remains Obama’s nominee for the post.