- Major corporations profiting from Obama policies are bankrolling President Obama's official inaugural committee.
- Inauguration money is of particular interest because the committee can use the money however it pleases.
- For 4 years, Obama's actions have undermined his rhetoric on transparency and on standing up to the special interests.
Major corporations profiting from Obama policies are bankrolling President Obama's official inaugural committee. While we know the names of the donors to Obama's inaugural, we don't know much more, because Obama is once again trampling his promises of transparency.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee is effectively an extension of Obama's campaign. It is not funded by taxpayers but by contributions, and it pays for aspects of the inaugural weekend not covered by the government. For instance, Obama's PIC will pay for official inaugural balls but not for the swearing-in at the Capitol. After the inauguration, the PIC can use leftover funds however it pleases.
Four years ago, Obama's PIC mostly matched his reformer rhetoric: He barred corporate money and capped contributions at $50,000. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both took large corporate contributions for their PICs.
More importantly, the 2008 PIC website disclosed donors' names and employment, along with the amount of their donations. The Federal Election Commission's deadline for disclosing this information was not until April, but the 2008 PIC did it in real time.
So much for transparency -- and scruples. This year, Obama is taking unlimited donations, including corporate cash. Instead of a detailed disclosure, the PIC website has one page with a very long list of donors, replete with typos and misspellings -- and no information on dollar amounts or donors' employment. AT&T, for example, is listed under "I," for "AT&T, Inc."
The list makes no distinction between corporate donors and individual donors, or between million-dollar donors and $5 donors. The PIC has all this information -- it is legally required to collect it for the April FEC filing. But it's not disclosing the information, and PIC officials didn't answer when I asked why. They also wouldn't give me the amounts donated by a few specific corporations.
Microsoft is bankrolling the inaugural. How generously? We don't know. The software giant was Obama's top corporate source of funds in the 2012 election -- employees and executives of the company gave $815,000 to his re-election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Microsoft has received federal contracts worth $852 million under Obama, according to USASpending.gov, and the company spent about $6 million on lobbying last year, pushing its case on tax credits, education funding and immigration policy.
Southern Co., one of the country's largest energy companies, has given $100,000 to the PIC, company spokesman Tim Leljedal tells me. What value do Southern Co.'s shareholders get from this expenditure? "This is really about supporting the celebration of the presidency," Leljedal said.
Southern Co. is the biggest beneficiary of Obama's push for loan guarantees for nuclear power plants, with an $8.3 billion guarantee in the works for a new Georgia plant.
Southern has also received more than half a billion in federal grants under Obama, including hundreds of millions in stimulus funding. This includes money for "smart grid" technology and "carbon capture" aimed at addressing global warming. Some of this taxpayer-funded profit is now flowing into Obama's coffers.
Obamacare beneficiaries have also funded Obama's inaugural committee.
Obama inaugural donor United Therapeutics is a leading biotechnology company. Obamacare gave special lengthy exclusivity to biotech drugs, keeping generic versions off the market for 12 years. The law also directs billions in subsidies toward all prescription drugs.
Genentech is another biotech giant funding the inaugural. One aspect of Genentech's pro-Obamacare lobbying in 2009 came to light in a New York Times article revealing that many members of Congress supporting Obamacare provisions read from a script prepared by Genentech's lobbyists.
Centene, another Obama inaugural donor, is a health care company described by investors as "a pure-play Medicare and Medicaid company." Some parts of Obamacare boost Medicare and Medicaid spending while other parts cut these programs. As Obama administration officials craft the details of the law, Centene's profits hang in the balance.
Inauguration money is of particular interest because the committee can use the money however it pleases. If Obama's PIC has money left over, it can use that money for grassroots political activity supporting Obama's agenda -- or nearly anything.
For four years, Obama's actions have undermined his rhetoric on transparency and on standing up to the special interests. So it's fitting that he'll kick off his second four years with reduced disclosure regarding large contributions from politically connected corporations.
Timothy P.Carney, The Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com. His column appears Monday and Thursday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.