Trump Inauguration Bankrolled by Firms Seeking Government Favor

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Trump Inauguration Bankrolled by Firms Seeking Government Favor

In one notable instance, agrochem giant Dow—which is trying to kill a risk study on its pesticides—gave $1 million for festivities

Protesters gather during President Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20, 2017. (Photo: derek.simeone/flickr/cc)

Companies seeking favor from the government wrote big checks for President Donald Trump's inauguration, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings (pdf) released this week.

In one notable instance, the agrochemical giant Dow—which is trying to kill a federal risk study on its pesticides—gave $1 million for the festivities. Dow's chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to Trump and heads a White House manufacturing working group.

Last week, lawyers representing Dow and two other big chemical companies sent letters to the chiefs of three federal agencies asking them to ignore scientific findings that their pesticides cause damage to roughly 1,800 threatened or endangered species, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion are "likely to adversely affect" 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants the agency examined, including endangered mammals, birds, and reptiles.

Dow claimed the tests had been conducted unreliably and asked the heads of the EPA, the Natural Marine Fisheries Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service to "set aside" the scientific findings. (In March, EPA chief Scott Pruitt announced that he would lift a federal ban on chlorpyrifos, which is also known to cause brain damage in children.)

Green groups were not surprised that Dow was attempting to cast doubt on the results. Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the AP that the company was intentionally holding scientists to impossible standards.

"You can't just take an endangered fish out of the wild, take it to the lab, and then expose it to enough pesticides until it dies to get that sort of data," Hartl said. "It's wrong morally, and it's illegal."

Other companies shelling out for the inauguration were AT&T, which gave $2.1 million as it awaits federal approval of its proposed merger with Time Warner—a deal that opponents have slammed as "counter to the public good" and a threat to privacy. In March, Trump tapped Makan Delrahim, who once said the merger was no big deal, to serve as antitrust chief for the Department of Justice.

The telecommunications giant Qualcomm, which is fighting an Obama-era anti-competitiveness complaint, gave $1 million.

Defense contractor Boeing gave $1 million.

Sheldon Adelson, the reclusive casino mogul and conservative super-donor, gave $5 million.

In all, Politico noted, "more than 40 individuals and corporations each gave at least $1 million toward Trump's inauguration festivities, including Bank of America, Pfizer and Qualcomm, top executives from Cantor Fitzgerald and GoDaddy, and the owners of the National Football League's Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Washington Redskins."

Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, said Wednesday, "The Trump administration did not wait to take office before embracing and deepening the pay-to-play, corrupting culture against which candidate Trump ran. Those who did attend the inauguration did so out of civic pride and a celebration of American democracy. For inaugural donors, it was all about buying access and influence, and corrupting American democracy."

"If only all that money had bought a bigger crowd," Weissman said.

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