While President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration is facing opposition from Democrats, civil society, and entertainers as the president-elect deals with the disapproval of much of the country, corporate America is outpacing historical records with a flood of private money to fund the inaugural celebrations.
"This is very unfettered, brazen selling of access."
—Craig Holman, Public Citizen
Trump has raised over $100 million from private donors for his inauguration festivities, about twice the amount that President Barack Obama raised in 2008 and 2012, setting a record.
"No matter which party controls the White House, corporations and wealthy individuals open their checkbooks every four years, and administrations reward their donors with private events and other incentives," writes the New York Times, which reported the record-setting amount on Sunday. "But ethics experts say Mr. Trump's donors are being given greater access and facing fewer limits on donations than those in other recent inaugurations, despite his vow to 'drain the swamp' of special interests in Washington."
"This is nothing short of selling access to the president, the vice president and the cabinet," said Craig Holman, lobbyist for ethics watchdog Public Citizen, to the Times. "This is very unfettered, brazen selling of access. It certainly runs counter to any presidential candidate who was talking about draining the swamp."
"Virtually any industry of any significance in the United States has business with the government, and the chance to rub shoulders with the president and prominent officials is kind of priceless," Daniel I. Weiner of the Brennan Center for Justice commented to the Times.
The corporate donations are also raising eyebrows because despite raising over twice as much as Obama, Trump is planning to hold far fewer inaugural events.
"I can't imagine how they are going to spend that amount of money—and why they would even keep raising money," Steve Kerrigan, CEO of Obama's inaugural committee, told Fortune. "We planned the two largest inaugurations in the history of our country and we never spent anywhere near that."