President Obama’s second-term inauguration ceremony will take place on January 21, 2013, which is also the third anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic Citizens United decision. Citizens United freed corporations and unions to spend money from their treasuries directly on politics, and opened the door for the creation of super-PACs.
With that anniversary in mind, Public Citizen, the good-government group founded by Ralph Nader, is pressuring Obama to reject corporate donations to his inauguration ceremony. Public Citizen president Robert Weissman writes in a November 29 letter to Obama that the public would likely be left in the dark about which corporations gave money and states that there is a “very real risk of corruption” from letting corporations underwrite the ceremony. Weissman’s letter comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration is mulling whether to take corporate money for the inauguration. Obama banned corporate donations for his 2009 inauguration, and instead raised $50 million from hundreds of individual donors.
“The corporate donors to the inauguration will expect—and receive—something in return,” Weissman writes. “The concern is less that they get a tax break in exchange for their million-dollar donation than that they get better access—their calls returned faster, their proposals reviewed in a more favorable light.”
If the inauguration needs to rely on private donors and not just public funding this time around, Weissman says, that outside money should come in the form of small-dollar donations from individuals.
If inauguration planners do break with the precedent set by the corporate-free 2009 inauguration, it wouldn’t be the first time Democrats backtracked on this kind of issue. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, told reporters a year before her party’s 2012 national convention that planners would not accept corporate money to put on the convention. But strapped for cash, convention planners ended up taking millions from corporations anyway, breaking their pledge.
Read Weissman’s letter to Obama urging a ban on corporate inauguration money: