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Lobbyists Join Corporate America in “Soft Money” Funding of the Bush InAugusturation

Jan. 18, 2005

Lobbyists Join Corporate America in “Soft Money” Funding of the Bush Inauguration

Bush’s Business Contributions Vastly Exceed Clinton’s

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lobbyists have contributed $400,000 of the $24.9 million collected so far for President Bush’s inauguration – a total that is $7.1 million more than a week ago, according to a Public Citizen analysis of Bush’s inaugural contribution records released Friday. Thursday’s inauguration is projected to be the most expensive in the nation’s history.

Those lobbyists include the firms of Barbour Griffith & Rogers, Blank Rome, Perennial Strategy Group, Piper Rudnick, Washington Group International, and Williams & Jensen. Blank Rome Chairman David Girard-diCarlo also contributed to the fund. Together, the firms have hundreds of clients and work on virtually every major regulatory and legislative issue.

An analysis of the latest figures also reveals that corporations and their executives are continuing their unprecedented financing of the inauguration by contributing $24 million, or 96 percent, of the $24.9 million collected so far. The average gift from the 194 contributors is more than $128,000. Bush’s inaugural committee hopes to raise up to $50 million to pay for this week’s activities, with a self-imposed cap of $250,000 per contributor.

Bush’s committee is continuing the upward trajectory of inaugural fundraising. The inaugural committee raised $40 million in 2001, with a $100,000 self-imposed cap on contributions. Clinton’s 1997 inaugural raised $23.7 million with a $100 self-imposed cap, but did so in the context of heavy criticism of his 1996 campaign fundraising.

The finance and investment industry has contributed more money to the inauguration than any other industry – $6.3 million, or 25 percent of all the money collected. The industry raised at least $21.7 million for Bush’s 2004 campaign. It is followed by the energy industry, which has contributed $2.4 million, accounting for 10 percent of the total contributions. The energy industry raised at least $5.4 million for Bush’s 2004 campaign.

“Corporate America and its lobbyists are investing in the president’s victory party,” said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen president. “Congress limits campaign contributions to control influence peddling, but inaugural contributions can be just as influential, if not more so, as lobbyists whisper in the ears of high government officials. Congress needs to establish limits that make inaugural contributions conform with existing campaign finance law, which prohibits direct corporate campaign contributions.”

Under law, corporations are barred from making direct contributions to presidential candidates and campaigns. However, they are under no similar restrictions in their attempts to curry favor from the administration by financing the president’s inauguration celebration, which has become one of the last political outlets for corporate “soft money.”

None of the provisions that prohibit corporate contributions or limit contributions from wealthy individuals to $2,000 in federal campaigns apply to fundraising for presidential inauguration ceremonies. Federal election law exempts inaugural fundraising from all campaign finance regulations other than a requirement to disclose contributions of $200 or more and a ban on contributions by foreign nationals.

“It’s not a real shocker that the financial industry is the leader in inaugural contributions when one considers how much it has to gain from the administration’s proposal to privatize Social Security,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The money it spends on the inauguration is a small price to pay for access and influence with the Bush administration.”

Public Citizen’s full report on the latest inaugural contributions is located at http://www.WhiteHouseForSale.org.