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Obama will accept corporate cash to pay for inauguration

December 07, 2012|By Melanie Mason
  • Preparations have started on a review stand in front of the White House for the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C.
Preparations have started on a review stand in front of the White House for… (Olivier Douliery/Abaca…)

President Obama will accept corporate contributions to pay for his inauguration in January, a departure from his first inauguration and the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The decision, first reported by Politico, underscores how the president’s stated desire to limit the influence of money and politics can at times create friction with the practical need of quickly financing large political events.

“To help cover the cost of the public events, the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee will be accepting contributions from individual and institutional donors in compliance with the laws governing contributions to an Inaugural Committee,” said Addie Whisenant, the committee’s spokeswoman. “The PIC will not be accepting donations from lobbyists or PACs and will not be entering into any sponsorship agreements with individuals or corporations.”

Federal law allows inaugural committees to accept unlimited donations from corporations and individuals. But in 2009, the president chose to cap individual donations at $50,000 and ban all contributions from corporations and unions. The 2009 inaugural committee collected more than $53 million in donations, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

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Democrats also voluntarily opted to limit corporate cash in their Charlotte convention last summer: corporate donations were barred and individuals could not donate more than $100,000. Nonprofit organizations, including unions, were not subject to contribution limits.

But corporate money nevertheless seeped in to the Democrats’ nominating festivities. While the official organizing committee imposed donation limits, an affiliated nonprofit, New American City, collected dollars from companies including Bank of America, AT & T and Duke Energy to pay for a street festival, media welcome party and delegate receptions. New American City also paid the $5 million rental fee for the city’s Time Warner Arena, the site of the three-day event.

The Obama campaign shattered fundraising records for the 2012 campaign, netting $1.1 billion over the course of the election. But after nearly two years of campaign solicitations, Democratic donors may be feeling some giving fatigue.

“Our goal is to make sure that we will meet the fundraising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history,” Whisenant said. “To ensure continued transparency, all names of donors will be posted to a regularly updated website.”

The committee will also vet corporate contributions to guard against conflicts of interest, such as companies bidding for a major federal contracts or those that received TARP loans and have not yet repaid them.

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melanie.mason@latimes.com

@melmason

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