The best president money can buy

January 31, 2001


The United States' biggest corporations delivered more than US$35 million in 31 days to pay for George W. Bush's January 19-20 inauguration parties, the New York Times reported on January 18.

Most of the money came in separate $100,000 donations from corporations "with business pressing in Washington, such as energy companies seeking favorable policies; pharmaceutical companies concerned about a Medicare drug program; sports teams wanting to protect subsidies for sports arenas; and individual companies like American Airlines, America Online and Microsoft with specific issues before regulators", the NYT reported.

Companies like Ford, General Motors and several Washington law and lobbying firms sponsored lavish parties for incoming administration officials, some of whom once worked for them. General Motors hosted a reception at the Kennedy Center honouring the new White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr, who was a GM lobbyist.

More than 45 corporations wrote five-digit cheques, reported the NYT, among them BP Amoco, Enron and Texaco, to pay for events honouring Bush administration officials. The biggest donor to the Bush inaugural committee was the Marriott Corporation, which gave $750,000.

"This is the cost of doing business in Washington", said James Albertine, president of the American League of Lobbyists. "It is very important to get an introduction to the new members of Congress and the new administration and to get in front of them. You can send your money to the inaugural committee or you can throw your own reception. It's whatever gets the biggest bang for your buck."

In addition, the Bush inauguration committee hosted three dinners at exclusive restaurants, with a price to corporate donors of $25,000 a table, generating another $6-7 million. Bush made personal appearances at each.

Larry Makinson, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, told the NYT that there was a striking overlap between donors to the Bush election campaign and the president-elect's inauguration shindigs.

"These are not new faces", Makinson said. "They have left their fingerprints from day 1 and they are people that George W. Bush and his administration will take care of in the next four years."

Corporations skirted the committee's $100,000 cap on donations by giving extra donations from executives or subsidiaries. Enron, a major energy company, gave $100,000 to the committee and its chairperson Kenneth Lay also gave $100,000. Enron also gave $310,000 to the Bush campaign. Lay is a Bush adviser.

Donald Carty, chief executive of American Airlines, a Texas-based company seeking administration approval for a three-way deal with TWA and US Airways, gave $100,000 to the inauguration and $5000 to the Bush Florida recount effort.

A group of owners of sports teams — the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Washington Redskins and the New Orleans Saints as well as major league baseball — each gave $100,000. there have been moves in US Congress to change the tax code to make it less favourable to sports team owners.

Executives of Coca-Cola and Pepsi each gave $100,000, as did executives at Ford and General Motors, Philip Morris and US Tobacco. Pharmaceutical companies gave more than $625,000, with $100,000 cheques from Abbott Laboratories, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Other $100,000 donors included General Electric, AT&T and Alcoa.

Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration netted the Democratic Party $33 million from corporate donors. In 1997, the Clinton inauguration effort raised $23.7 million.

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