Holy cow, maybe we are getting a return to business as usual. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and Joe Biden’s desire to project a more caring and careful approach, many inauguration traditions will either change significantly or be dropped altogether. The quadrennial tradition of the Corporation And Big-Ticket Donor Access Sellout will continue enthusiastically, however:
NEW: For $1M, corporations can be listed as a "chair" of JOE BIDEN's inauguration ($500k for individuals).
— Kenneth P. Vogel (@kenvogel) December 16, 2020
Make no mistake — the inaugural committee is definitely and explicitly selling access to Biden and Kamala Harris, including to “organizations.” And by that, they mean — as Kenneth Vogel says — “corporations”:
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inaugural committee released a menu of perks for donors to his inauguration this week, reflecting an aggressive fund-raising effort, despite plans for a less expensive and mostly virtual event lacking the elaborate balls and concerts that have been staples of past inaugurations.
Corporations and other organizations that donate $1 million and individuals who donate $500,000 — the maximum donations that the committee has said it will accept from each category of donor — will be listed as chairs of the inaugural committee. …
Top donors also will receive “event sponsorship opportunities,” though the brochure does not specify the events, as well as access to virtual briefings with leaders of the inaugural committee and campaign, “V.I.P. exclusive merchandise” and four V.I.P. tickets to a future in-person event.
Who’d they put in charge of this effort … Hunter Biden? It’s already popular, Vogel reports. Among the “organizations” laying claim to “Chair” status are Boeing, Bank of America, and Ford Motor Company. It’s worth pointing out that Biden has forbidden the inaugural committee from receiving funds from fossil-fuel companies, so we won’t see ExxonMobil on the list. However, the product lines of both Boeing and Ford rely heavily on fossil fuels, plus all three “Chairs” can expect to have plenty of regulatory issues afoot over the next four years.
It’s fair to say that Biden’s predecessors have raised money in similar ways to fund their inaugural galas. Barack Obama eschewed corporate cash in 2009 but accepted it in 2013, and of course Donald Trump had no issues with corporate donations at all. It’s also normal to structure these into “packages” to make it more attractive to raise funds to cover the enormous costs of these events. However, there’s just one catch — this inauguration won’t have those enormous costs. In fact, the Biden team has gone out of its way to emphasize that this will mostly be a virtual event:
President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural committee on Tuesday advised Americans against traveling to attend his swearing-in ceremony and related activities next month, instead rolling out initial public health protocols for the quadrennial event and previewing a “reimagined” parade.
The committee said in a news release that it was working “in close coordination” with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies “to ensure that the inauguration … honors and resembles sacred American traditions while keeping Americans safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19.” …
“The ceremony’s footprint will be extremely limited, and the parade that follows will be reimagined,” the committee said, adding that it was “urging the public to refrain from any travel and participate in the inaugural activities from home.”
Bloomberg reports this afternoon that this will look more like a State of the Union event rather than an inauguration, although both Biden and Harris will give speeches as usual. The JCCIC will only allow members of Congress to give out a little over a thousand tickets, rather than the 200,000-plus it normally disperses to favored constituents:
The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC) said invitations would be limited to each member of Congress and one guest, meaning that 1,070 invitations will be given to members of Congress.
Absent the pandemic, the committee would have distributed 200,000 tickets for the ceremony and given members of Congress ticket bundles for constituents. The committee said it would distribute commemorative ticket bundles and programs to congressional offices following the event. …
“The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who chairs the committee, said.
If that’s the case, then why is the inaugural committee raising funds at all, especially from corporations? Why are they promising corporate execs special access to Biden and Harris? Progressives within the Democratic Party would like answers to those questions too, Vogel reports. In fact, they think the whole thing looks rather … Trumpian:
“The acceptance of up to $1 million from each corporation is of particular concern given that this year’s inauguration will be predominantly remote, and costs of the event itself will be substantially down,” wrote a coalition of about 50 progressive groups, led by Demand Progress, which has raised concerns about links between Mr. Biden’s team and corporate America.
“The drive to raise so much money without a clear use for it is perplexing, and the appearance of doing so is disconcerting, as we must strive to stamp out the unfettered corruption that has defined the Trump era,” the groups wrote.
It’s actually a good question. Just what do Biden and Harris plan to do with this cash?
Biden probably couldn’t care less about Demand Progress. He knows he has to find ways to cut deals with Joe Manchin, not Bernie Sanders in order to have any chance to get his agenda through Congress. But Harris is torching her own credibility with progressives in this process, and they may not forget when it comes time to replacing Biden in 2024. Whatever they get for selling out to corporate execs, Harris had better hope it’s worth what she’s surrendering.