Obama inauguration fueled by corporations, unions

More than $18 million flows in from sources president generally rejected four years ago

By

 Updated:

Corporations, unions and special interest groups fueled President Barack Obama's second inauguration ceremonies with more than $18 million — money the commander in chief generally rejected during his first inaugural.

The total represents more than 40 percent of the nearly $44.6 million the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013 collected, according to a disclosure document filed Saturday night with the Federal Election Commission.

Many of the companies and unions that donated to the president's 2013 inauguration rank among the most powerful government lobbying forces in the nation, collectively spending hundreds of millions of dollars attempting to influence federal policy since Obama first took office.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013's seven-figure donors include some of the nation's most notable corporate names, the FEC filing reveals.

Among them are telecommunications giant AT&T ($4.6 million), software maker Microsoft ($2.1 million), aviation and defense firm Boeing ($1 million) and oil company Chevron ($1 million).

Those that gave $250,000 to $750,000 include:

  • Biotech company Genentech ($750,000)
  • United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices ($500,000)
  • Accounting firm Deloitte ($500,000)
  • Event and trade show company Hargrove ($500,000)
  • FedEx ($500,000)
  • Coca-Cola ($430,000)
  • Bank of America ($300,000)
  • Xerox Corp. ($250,000)
  • ExxonMobil ($250,000)
  • Financial Innovations ($250,000)
  • Hisvision Inc. ($250,000)
  • PSP Capital Partners ($250,000)
  • International Association Of Fire Fighters ($250,000)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($250,000)
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters ($250,000)
  • National Education Association ($250,000)

Among the several dozen other such entities making five- or six-figure contributions were the American Federation of Government Employees, American Hospital Association, American Postal Workers Union, Centene Management Corp., Comcast Corp., Credit Union National Association, Edison Electric Institute and the Forest County Potawatomi Community.

Also: Laborers International Union of North America, Northrop Grumman, Pepco, Service Employees International Union, Southern Co., United States Steel Corp., United Therapeutics, Visa and Verizon Communications Inc.

Several dozen individuals also gave $50,000 or more, the inaugural committee's filing indicates.

The 2013 inaugural committee turned away donations from federally registered lobbyists, political action committees, foreign governments, political parties, registered foreign agents or anyone under the age of 16, as it did four years before.

But Obama’s 2009 inaugural committee had banned corporate contributions altogether and limited individual donations to $50,000.

Obama — long a critic of the influence of lobbyists and big money's influence on politics — this year instituted no such prohibition for corporations, special interests or labor unions that together employ hundreds of lobbyists to influence government policy and legislation. Individuals could also give any amount.

Several political advocacy groups or their affiliates indeed made contributions, according to records.

The inaugural committee reported a $10,000 contribution from the Miami headquarters of Greenberg Traurig, a law firm whose Washington, D.C., office provides government lobbying services for dozens of clients and once employed Jack Abramoff, the fallen lobbyist who served more than three years in federal prison.

Lobbying firm Capitol Council, which also represents dozens of clients, gave $12,500.

Virginia-based Purple Strategies, a bipartisan public affairs firm run by several prominent Democratic and Republican political operatives, contributed $15,000.

The Democratic Governors Association gave $55,000. And Priorities USA, the lower-profile nonprofit sister organization of pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, also chipped in $10,000.

The inaugural committee also reported refunding more than $1 million in contributions — including $150,000 from the Machinist Nonpartisan Political League Multicandidate Committee and $10,000 from the Asbestos Workers Political Action Committee. This means it took in a net of about $43.2 million.

(Update, April 24, 10:46 a.m.: The inaugural committee on April 23 filed an amendment to its original disclosure report, which states that it collected just more than $44 million in donations and refunded almost $1.1 million for net income of more than $42.9 million.)

About 16,000 itemized donations are listed in the inaugural committee's disclosure. Almost $4.6 million worth of the inaugural committee's smal-dollar contributions (those $200 or less) were unitemized.

An inaugural committee representative couldn't immediately be reached for comment late Saturday.

Last January, the committee said in a statement that “the inaugural is a civic event and our guidelines aren’t just consistent with the law — they are consistent with the president’s commitment to transparency and to reducing the influence of PACs and lobbyists in Washington.”

Obama's ceremonial inauguration took place Jan. 21 on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before hundreds of thousands of onlookers.

As is tradition, a parade and series of presidential balls followed the ceremonial swearing-in ceremony. (Obama actually began his second term the day before.)

Obama's new nonprofit lobbying group, Organizing for Action, initially planned to accept corporate donations but ultimately decided against doing so. It does accept unlimited contributions from most individuals and unions, and much of the initial money it's raised has come from a few wealthy donors.