The Associated Press reported today that $42 million was raised to finance the 2004 Presidential Inaugural festivities. According to the report, the range of companies that donated $250,000 to serve as inaugural “underwriters” included The Home Depot, Exxon Mobil Corp., Burlington Northern & Santa Fe railroad, FedEx Corp, Pfizer, Ford Motor Co., First Data Corp., the Wachovia Corp. financial services company, and Time Warner. Marriott International donated $500,000 and the National Association of Home Builders donated at least $305,000. Several other companies donated $100,000.
The report also lists several individuals who donated large sums to help finance the Inaugural festivities.
The Inauguration of the President is a joyous event that deserves a celebration equal to the occasion. However, in the same spirit as campaign finance reform, donations to fund inaugural balls should be regulated.
With specific regard to corporate donations, companies have an obligation to their shareholders to increase the profits and productivity of their companies. Rather than supporting an Inaugural Ball or a campaign, corporate bosses have an obligation to their customers and their shareholders to reinvest profits into the company or provide a dividend to their shareholders. Every individual in America has the opportunity to contribute his/her own funds to the both campaigns and the Inaugural Festivities if they wish. Corporate bosses should not make the decisions on who to donate to and how much to donate for their shareholders.
Let’s take the money out of campaigns (and inaugural balls) and make politics about ideas.
(Note: I attended the 2001 Presidential Inaugural Ball on a corporate ticket donated to a political organization I was then employed at.)
The Center for Responsive Politics is a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy. You can get more data on who gave what to who here.