Friday, December 21, 2012

Inaugural Ball 2.0 - Dancing with Corporate Stars

Obama’s decision to involve corporate influence and money in this event “prioritizes a lavish celebration over the integrity of the office.”  It demonstrates his “turning away from a principled approach to money in politics.” – John Wonderlich, Policy Director of the Sunlight Foundation.

Inaugural Ball 2.0 (…or...Dancing with the Corporate Stars)

Did you get your invite to enter the lottery for $5 to win a trip to the inauguration for Obama?  I did.  Guy Cecil of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wishes me luck at a chance to donate $5 and possibly win an opportunity to “be at” the Inaugural Ball.”  I’m just a grassroots supporter, yet I am made to feel really important in his email invite.  Guy ends by saying, “Hope to see you and your guest in Washington, DC soon – and don’t forget your dancing shoes.”  Let’s be honest.  My chances are pretty slim, but I know who will be there to have a conversazione (Italian for influential face-to-face with VIP’s). 

According to recent reports, President Barack Obama will accept unlimited corporate donations for his upcoming January 21st Inauguration. 

This is not the way it was supposed to be.  Remember Inaugural Ball 1.0 (2011) – no corporate influences allowed? 

Although Obama had barred corporations from donating during the last inauguration, flip-flops in this earlier position were caused – according to his handlers – by the unequal expenses of this last campaign which has left donors less likely to be holding extra cash to negotiate into political play.

Last time around, the 2009 Inauguration Ball cost nearly $47 million and the short time between election and January 21st makes “raising that ($) in a matter of six weeks too difficult without throwing open the flood gates, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity “(   

Of course, some politically polite mannerisms will be observed this upcoming year.  Any corporate sponsorship for the event will not be accompanied by branding <!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->privileges, so we probably won’t see any corporate logos visibly present on pennants or banners.  On the other hand, unless they are deemed liable to pose a conflict of interest, they’ll all be there in physical presence if not in influence. is also quick to remind that the practice of accepting corporate sponsorship for a Presidential Inauguration is not nouveau.  Unlike his carefully drawn line during his “Hope and Change” run and original Inauguration Ball in 2009, “in some ways, Obama is returning to tradition.  Previous Presidents accepted large corporate donations for their inaugurations.  George W. Bush, for example, took a slew of $250,000 checks from companies that included Bank of America, Pfizer, and Exxon Mobil” ( ). 

Defenders of the President’s decision to return to accepting corporate donations remind that such a civic event as the Inaugural Ball is no different than others; for example, the Cherry Blossom Festival takes corporate sponsorships as do many museums and charities.  Yikes, even the small animal shelter where I volunteer would welcome a corporate sponsorship – on the other hand, we don’t ever get any.  Is it because we don’t federally and locally legislate?

What if you want to go to the ball?

Check your coin jar.  As donator, $250,000 will get you a top level package called appropriately the “Washington.”  The same package for a corporate entity – although remember they’re people too – will start at $1 million.  The packages come with numerous tickets for the inauguration, including two tickets to a benefactors reception, an invitation to the finance committee ‘Road Ahead’ meeting, two tickets to the children’s concert, two tickets to the co-chair’s reception, and four tickets to the candlelight celebration”( ).  Other lesser packages range downward into the tens of thousands with catchy names like the “Adams, Jefferson, or Madison.”   One wonders if there is a Fawkes package?

The Inaugural Committee, like every other group in political Washington, drew lines to eliminate conflicts of interest, which are flexible if not totally elastic.  A conflict of interest for a corporation might include looking for a federal contract, but not necessarily trying to secure a large tax subsidy.  The same committee bars PAC’s and lobbyists, but top clients of the same lobbying groups (e.g., General Electric) can participate.  Of course, we may not actually see a Microsoft banner above the swearing-in, as the committee outlawed corporate branding, but you might expect that big-package executives will gladly trade such displays for face-to-face encounters with federal legislators.  Have another drink, Senator?

Unlike earlier inaugural fund-raising efforts, Obama’s committee is providing an evolving list of personal and corporate donors prior to the event – not after as is normally done.  With that in mind, it is indeed an eye-opening journey through the extensive lists of donors already on board and receiving their special “packages” for attendance

As you might expect, a large segment of the individual guest lists paying $50,000 (Crowns, Pritzkers, etc.) include those in Illinois who work to promote and influence the undermining of public education or the destruction of the public sector workers benefits. 

You will find the growing guest list of the 1% at the following site.


  1. WishIDidn&#39;tKnowNowWhatIDidn&#39;tKnowThenDecember 21, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    In these times of increased unemployment, home foreclosures, poverty and crime, it seems entirely inappropriate to have an "Inaugural Ball." Since it cost $47 million in 2009, that cost will certainly be inflated in 2013. Just think what that money could be used for instead!

    Sounds like the 1% is telling the 99% "Let them eat cake." However, it is the 1% getting the cake; the rest of us get bread and water.

  2. After days of registering voters for him and making phone calls for Obama's campaign, I am deeply disturbed by his asking special people (or as the Supreme Court calls them, corporations) and the very wealthy to give him a lavish party to re-welcome him to office. As widowed teachers over 80 years of age face forced "shared sacrifice" cuts to their meager pensions, and as I passed several unemployed homeless veterans on the street asking for money, An overwhelming sense of wrong washed over me.
    Charles Dickens could have express it better, but the wrong has just crossed another level this Christmas season.