By: Sandy Fitzgerald
Only seven companies have offered corporate cash to help fund President Barack Obama’s upcoming inaugural festivities.
In 2009, Obama banned corporate donors from paying for his inauguration, but he was still able to raise $53 million from private donors.
However, this month’s inauguration is being held after the most expensive presidential campaign in history, and even with the corporate donations will be a scaled-down event. This year, fewer people are expected to attend the inauguration and there are only two official balls planned.
There are a few reasons this year’s celebration has been scaled back.
Organizers say the ceremonies reflect the nation is facing tough economic times, and fewer ceremonies will mean less of a burden on Washington’s law enforcement and residents, along with other security personnel.
According to the Inauguration Committee’s website, more than 400 people have donated toward the events. So far, though, the only corporate donors are AT&T, Microsoft, Centene, Financial Innovations, Genentech, Stream Line Circle, and Whittier Trust Co.
While some of the companies aren’t as well-known as AT&T and Microsoft, they’re still powerful in their own right. Genentech is a biotechnology company owned by Swiss drugmaker Roche, while Stream Line Circle is owned by billionaire Obama backer and gay-rights activist Jon Stryker, and Centene is a Medicaid administration company that is profiting highly through Obamacare, reports the Washington Post.
Financial Innovations, meanwhile, earned $1.8 million in business through making promotional products used in Obama’s 2012 campaign, the Post reports.
AT&T’s donation for the inauguration is kind of a turnaround a company whose PAC contributed $5,000 to Mitt Romney’s campaign against Obama in September. In addition, AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson contributed $30,800 to the Republican National Committee last February, reports Bloomberg, marking his largest political contribution in at least 20 years.
However, Microsoft’s donation isn’t so surprising. The Redmond, Wash.-based company’s employees donated a total of $815,435 to the Obama campaign, more money than any other company, says the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.
The Inauguration Committee hasn’t said how much each donor has given toward the inauguration ceremonies, but each person on the list has donated at least $200. However, while donations were capped off at $50,000 in 2009, this year’s committee is encouraging individual gifts of up to $250,000. Donations from lobbyists, political action committees or foreign donors are not being accepted.
And some of the private donors are people who donated heavily through an independent super PAC that spent millions tp get Obama re-elected. For example, Irwin Jacobs, founder of telecommunications giant Qualcomm, gave more than $2 million to the Priorities USA PAC during the election, and New York gardening book author Amy Goldman gave $1 million to the group.
In exchange for donating, contributors for the inauguration get special access behind the scenes. They hear special briefings and get tickets for the inaugural balls and swearing-in ceremony.
Obama’s second term begins, by Constitutional law, at noon on Jan. 20. However, since that falls on a Sunday, he’ll be sworn in privately at the White House on Jan. 20 and then celebrate his inauguration ceremonies on Jan. 21.