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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Interest Groups and the Inauguration Committee

The president has banned lobbyists from donating to his inaugural committee, but the ban does not apply to the groups that employ them.  The Center for Public Integrity reports:
Add Bank of America, Coca-Cola, FedEx and a collection of labor unions to the growing list of powerful lobbying forces underwriting the second inauguration of President Barack Obama — long a vocal critic of the influence industry and corporate political power.
The new inaugural bankrollers, the names of which the Presidential Inaugural Committee released this weekend, have together spent $124.3 million lobbying the federal government since Obama took office, a Center for Public Integrity review of federal disclosures shows.
Lobbying forces donating to Obama’s inaugural have spent nearly $283 million to influence the federal government since 2009 when including previously disclosed corporations, such as AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp. and energy giant Southern Co. — a figure likely to grow as the inauguration committee releases the names of more new contributors.
(Read: Corporate backers poured $160 million into lobbying since 2009.)
FedEx has spent more than $64 million on federal lobbying since 2009, while Coca-Cola has spent nearly $25 million and Bank of America more than $12.8 million, federal disclosures show.
Politico provides some background:
Obama has made a habit of changing or finessing the rules on corporate giving for his top events like the Democratic National Convention and Inauguration. And the president, an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, is facing a backlash from good-government groups and Democrats for accepting the corporate donations for the Inauguration and other events because they see it as selling access.
“He was elected by the people,” said Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen. “They are going to be the ones gathered at the Mall to hear his inaugural address. He should turn to them if he needs money to celebrate in the manner he wants.”

That’s the way it was four years ago, when corporate donors were blocked from giving to the Presidential Inaugural Committee. The donors, and how much they gave, were also disclosed. But with Obama donors fatigued after the billion-dollar campaign, the rules have changed. Corporate cash is in, there are no caps on donations and only a bare-bones list of donors’ names is provided.
In 2008, two-thirds of the cash for the Democratic National Convention, or $40 million, came from corporate sponsors. For 2012 in Charlotte, the Democrats said corporations would be banned from contributing. But through a separate account, the New American City Fund, convention organizers took in nearly $20 million in corporate cash, and the party accepted in-kind contributions from big-name companies such as AT&T, Duke Energy, Microsoft and Coca-Cola.
President Obama's new political organization, Organizing for Action, can accept unlimited corporate contributions.