WASHINGTON -- January 13 -- Corporations and corporate executives contributed 96 percent of the $17.8 million collected so far to pay for various inaugural festivities and functions, according to a new analysis by Public Citizen. Of the 127 contributors to Bushs Presidential Inauguration Committee, 121 are either corporations or their chairmen, CEOs, presidents or owners. Together, their donations amount to $17.1 million, Public Citizen found. The fund has an overall goal of raising $40 million.
This inauguration is bought and paid for by corporate America, said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. These businesses consider such gifts to be investments, with payback expected. Not surprisingly, many of the corporate givers received huge legislative and regulatory favors from the first Bush term and are looking for even more over the next four years. They also get invited to events, where they can schmooze with Cabinet members and administration officials and lobby on their issues.
Corporations by law are barred from direct contributions to presidential candidates and campaigns. However, they are under no similar restrictions in attempting to curry favor from the administration by financing the presidents inaugural events.
Although the Bush inaugural committee put a cap of $250,000 on single contributions to its fund, two corporations Ameriquest and Marriott International effectively skirted that ceiling by making contributions through their subsidiaries, Public Citizen found.
Among the reports other findings are:
- Eighty-seven corporations account for $12.7 million, or 71 percent, of the $17.8 million raised as of Jan. 13.
- Thirty-four of 40 total individual contributors are presidents, CEOs, chairmen and owners of corporations. These industry chiefs account for $4.4 million, or 25 percent, of the total raised so far.
- Almost half (59) of the inaugural contributors are Pioneers, Rangers or Super Rangers, or employers of one of those elite Bush fundraisers. These individuals and their corporate employers have raised more than half ($9.1 million) of the $17.8 million raised for the inauguration festivities. Collectively, these contributors raised a minimum of $15.3 million for Bushs two presidential campaigns.
- The finance and investment industry, with $5 million, was the largest contributor to the fund. That industry bundled more than $21.7 million for Bushs 2004 campaign and is pushing for new business under Bushs flawed Social Security privatization proposal.
- The energy industry, with $2.3 million, was the second largest contributor to the fund. That industry bundled more than $5.2 million for Bushs 2004 campaign.
- Ameriquest and three of its subsidiaries, Town and Country Credit, Argent Mortgage Co. and Long Beach Acceptance Corp., contributed a total of $1 million. Ameriquest Chairman Ronald Arnall and his wife, Dawn, contributed at least $5.5 million to Bushs re-election campaign, having achieved Ranger and Super Ranger status by bundling a combined total of at least $500,000 for his re-election effort and also having contributed $5 million to the Progress for America 527 group, which ran ads promoting Bushs re-election.
- Marriott International and its subsidiaries (Marriott Vacation Club and Ritz Carlton) contributed a total of $750,000 to the inaugural fund.
- Industries that have already received many legislative and regulatory favors from the Bush administration, and that stand to get even more in the second term, had the following number of significant contributors to the inauguration fund:
- Finance and investment 35 corporations and corporate leaders, 28 percent of all contributors
- Energy 12 corporations and corporate leaders, including nine from the oil and gas sector
- Real estate 10 corporations and corporate leaders
- Health five corporations and corporate leaders
Few of the provisions that restrict large contributions by wealthy individuals and corporations to election 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.
The possibility for corruption exists any time a politician accepts a large check from anyone, said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizens Congress Watch. Congress should end the double standard for presidential inauguration fundraising. The celebration of an election victory should be viewed as part and parcel of the process of selecting our president. Funds that support inaugural ceremonies should be subject to the same limits and disclosure requirements that apply to federal campaigns, which means no corporate contributions and a maximum individual contribution of $2,000.