Obama’s inaugural committee on the receiving end of transparency complaints

posted at 7:01 pm on January 5, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

In the run-up to his 2009 inauguration, President Obama’s inaugural committee made much ado about the fact that they would not be accepting any donations from lobbyists or corporations, nor individual donations in excess of $50,000 — and there was really no reason that they would have needed them, anyway. The Hopenchangey spirit carried over from 2008 was enough to fund all of the balls, concerts, parties, and other pomp surrounding the inauguration the first time around, but this year, the enthusiasm level is sufficiently tarnished that they decided to reverse course on that much-vaunted corporate ban and took the limit off of individual contributions. Why it was distinctly not okay to accept mega-donations in order to wave off well-monied interests in 2009, but it is okay now, is still unclear.

On Friday evening (why is it always Friday evening?), the inaugural committee released a list of the corporate donors who are so far contributing to the festivities, and it’s already coming under fire from transparency advocates:

“It’s not worth indebting yourself to corporate interests just to have a big party,” Craig Holman, an advocate with the watchdog group Public Citizen, told the Washington Post. “It’s very unfortunate and quite a reversal of what this president stood for.”

Holman also criticized the lack of transparency in the PIC’s disclosure. In 2009, inauguration organizers released the employer, amount donated, and state of residence for each individual donor. This time, however, the president provided “just a list of names,” Holman told the Post.

An inaugural committee spokeswoman, Addie Whisenant, pushed back on complaints about transparency, telling the Post, “The Presidential Inaugural Committee is continuing its pledge of transparency for the American people and is taking extra steps to provide the public with ongoing updates about who is donating to the inaugural. In keeping with the FEC requirements, we will also make public the final list of donors and the amounts they contributed to the [committee] 90 days after the presidential inauguration.”

Puh-lease. “Indebting yourself to corporate interests,” or rather, allowing corporate interests to apple-polish in return for some cozy rent-seeking, is precisely what it’s all about. And hey, FEC requirements? You mean, like these FEC requirements?

President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign has been fined $375,000 by the Federal Election Commission for reporting violations related to a set of donations received during the final days of the campaign.

The fines are among the largest ever levied on a presidential campaign by the FEC and stem from a series of missing notices for nearly 1,200 contributions totaling nearly $1.9 million.

Campaigns are required to file reports within 48 hours on donations of $1,000 or more received during the final 20 days of the campaign. The fine was detailed in a conciliation agreement sent to Sean Cairncross, chief counsel for the Republican National Committee.


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