POLITICS

How much is Bank of America giving to Obama’s inaugural, and why won’t Obama tell us?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Inauguration

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), effectively an extension of President Obama’s campaign, has taken (presumably) millions of dollars in corporate contributions — cash straight from the coffers of corporations like Bank of America, Microsoft, United Therapeutics, Southern Company, FedEx, and AT&T.

Obama’s PIC knows how much these corporations have donated, but the committee refuses to tell the public. Instead, PIC provides a poorly sorted list of all the donors, with no details.

My column today discusses how Obama’s big corporate inaugural donors have benefitted from Obama policies and stand to benefit in the second term. In reporting out the column, I called and emailed Obama’s PIC. In my email to PIC spokeswoman Addie Whisenant, I asked this:

Please tell me the amount of the donation from the following PIC donors:
  • Southern Company
  • Microsoft
  • Centene
  • Genentech
  • United Therapeutics
(Bank of America and FedEx hadn’t been listed as a donor by the time I asked this question.) Whisenant replied with this comment from a PIC spokesperson:
“By posting donor information online, the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC) is taking extra steps, beyond what’s required by federal law, to provide the public with fundraising information.  All donor information will be included in the FEC report filed by the PIC. Individuals or institutions that donate to the Committee range from longtime grassroots volunteers to new donors including those who disagree with the Administration on certain issues and positions.”
A non-answer. So I replied: “Thanks. How much did Microsoft, Centene, Genentech, AT&T, or United Therapeutics give? Does PIC know, or did they fail to collect this data?” No response. Southern Company answered my question, saying they gave $100,000. Microsoft responded by saying they wouldn’t tell me. The other corporations did not return my query by close of business Friday. These corporations are private entities, and I’m not a shareholder, and they have no obligation to tell me how much they gave. PIC isn’t legally required to give donor details until its April FEC filing is due. But given Obama’s talk of transparency — and the fact he disclosed all this information in real time four years ago — it seems almost a gratuitous exercise in opacity to keep secret this information which (a) Obama’s committee knows, and (b) is of public interest. But Obama’s lack of transparency is almost as old as his promises of transparency are. Four years ago, during the presidential transition, he claimed he was listing all transition team members on Transition.gov. I found at least one whom he omitted: telecom executive Gerry Salemme, whose company Clearwire happened to stand to benefit from the telecom policies Obama’s transition team was promoting. Since then, we’ve had:
  • secret off-campus meetings with lobbyists
  • White House officials using private email addresses for White House business
  • White House officials demanding non-disclosure from lobbyists they meet with
  • anti-transparency FOIA policies
  • putting an avowed transparency-skeptic in charge of transparency
  • hashing out secret ObamaCare deals with drug companies and then refusing to turn the communications over to Congress
There’s plenty more. FOIA hound Chris Horner has written a book, “The Liberal War on Transparency” mostly focussing on the Obama administration’s opacity. And plenty more. Yesterday, Obama’s second term began. I predict we get four more years of this war on transparency.
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