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Thursday, Jul 29, 2021

Joe Biden's made-for-TV inauguration celebration was bankrolled by dozens of corporations who do business with government

Joe Biden's made-for-TV inauguration celebration was bankrolled by dozens of corporations who do business with government

President Joe Biden's inaugural committee collectively raised eight-figures from dozens of corporations, many of which do business with government.

Numerous corporations helped bankroll President Joe Biden's made-for-TV inauguration celebrations, together contributing well into the eight-figures to fund the festivities, according to new disclosure documents filed with federal regulators.

Many of these corporations spend tens of millions of dollars annually to lobby and otherwise influence the federal government, including Congress and the White House. And some also are government contractors who stand to make millions — even billions — of dollars off the deals they strike with the Biden administration.

Several companies contributed $1 million, including Bank of America, AT&T, Comcast Corp., Boeing, Qualcomm Inc., drug maker Pfizer, Uber Technologies, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, medical technology company Masimo Corporation and motion picture company Levantine Entertainment LLC.

Fidelity National Financial Inc. and mortgage lending holding company Rock Holdings Inc. each gave $750,000.

Several corporations donated to Biden's inaugural committee at the $500,000 level, including drug maker Amgen, Charter Communications, Centene Management Company, Dow Chemical Company, FedEx, General Motors, Microsoft and the Nucor Corporation.

Corporate donors at the $250,000 level inc ude Anheuser Busch Companies, Airbnb, Doordash Inc., Dupont Specialty Products USA, Ford Motor Co., Higherschool Publishing Company, investment firm Cannae Holdings LLC, and Secure Identity LLC, the company behind the CLEAR screening system used at many airports.

Other notable corporate donors include Google ($337,500), United Airlines ($228,223), Walmart ($150,000), law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight ($150,000), Otsuka America Pharmaceutical Inc. ($150,000), the National Football League ($100,000), company review site Yelp ($100,000), MetLife ($100,000), Bravia Capital Partners ($100,000), Visa ($50,000), and Enterprise Rent-A-Car and its corporate PAC ($50,000).

Oh Boy Records Inc., founded by the late musician John Prine, gave $20,000.

Several prominent unions also contributed big amounts to Biden's inaugural committee, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which led the way with $1 million.

The nonprofit Sherwood Foundation, which "promotes equity through social justice initiatives," also contributed $1 million.

Various political megadonors individually contributed five- and six-figure amounts, led by several who gave $500,000, including media mogul Haim Saban, hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, asset manager Donald Sussman, and healthcare executive Jean-Pierre Conte.

Investor Chris Sacca and wife Crystal Sacca gave $500,000 each. Bill and Melinda Gates each gave $250,000.

In all, the Biden inaugural committee raised more than $63.8 million, according to its filing. In contrast, President Donald Trump's 2017 inauguration raised $107 million — and has since come under legal fire for how it spent the cash.

Few federal rules govern inauguration money, and the incoming president largely determines what kinds of money to accept and how much.

Biden's inaugural committee was responsible for funding five day's worth of programs, including nationally-televised musical performances, celebrity appearances, speeches, and the like. Most were virtual affairs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden's January 20 swearing-in ceremony at the US Capitol, and the unprecedented security around it, was primarily funded by the federal government, with help from state and local governments.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Singer Katy Perry performs at President Joe Biden's inauguration celebration on January 20, 2021, which dozens of corporations helped fund.


Big perks for big donors


Through interviews and obscure federal lobbying disclosures, Insider had previously identified 10 corporations that each gave at least $100,000 to Biden's inaugural.

Among them: Boeing Co., AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp., Comcast Corp., Dow Chemical Company, managed care giant Centene Corp., and the Masimo Corporation.

Top-dollar inauguration donors received a host of perks, including VIP treatment at inaugural events, access to a "virtual event" with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and their spouses, and tickets to a "future in-person event."

Biden's inaugural committee chose to accept most corporate and union contributions — it excluded fossil fuel companies and executives — of up to $1 million.

Although it vowed to reject contributions from individual, registered federal lobbyists, Biden's inaugural committee did accept money from corporations that in turn hire lobbyists to influence federal policies, rules, and regulations on their behalf.

President Barack Obama took a much different approach for his first inauguration, when Biden was sworn in as vice president. Back in 2009, Obama banned corporate and union contributions and capped individual contributions at $50,000.

Biden's rules for his own 2021 inauguration are more similar to the comparatively permissive contribution policies set forth by Obama's second inauguration committee in 2013 and President Donald Trump's inauguration committee.

Until now, Biden's inaugural committee had only volunteered snapshots of its income.

In early January, Biden's inaugural committee voluntarily posted on its website the names and states of inauguration contributors, stating that it was "committed to transparency."

But these online disclosures did not include the dates or dollar amounts of the contributions. Nor did they include information about the donors' employers or occupations — information helpful in distinguishing one "Jane Smith" from another "Jane Smith."

Then, sometime after January 27, this donation information disappeared from Biden's inaugural website altogether. The White House declined to say why.

"The Inauguration Committee will comply with any financial disclosure requirements," the White House said at the time in a statement to Insider.

But several liberal political groups, as well as a host of nonpartisan government watchdogs, told Insider that Biden could — and should — have done more.

Federal law doesn't require presidential inauguration committees to publicly release details about their spending. Biden's committee could have voluntarily disclosed how it spent the huge amounts of money it raised, but it declined to do so.

Nevertheless, it became evident that Biden's inauguration committee literally burned some of its cash: The star-studded, nationally televised celebration it produced included a massive fireworks show over the National Mall as singer Katy Perry belted her 2010 hit "Firework" while standing near the Lincoln Memorial.

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