Barack Obama takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in January 2009. Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON -- Two companies, AT&T and Microsoft, helping to
underwrite President Obama's Jan. 21 inaugural festivities have
multimillion dollar contracts with the federal government and a third
stands to benefit financially from the new federal health care law being
implemented during his second term.
A long-standing U.S. law bars
federal contractors from spending to influence presidential and
congressional elections, but few limits are imposed on post-election
fundraising to pay for swearing-in festivities.
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corporate money for his first inauguration, Obama reversed course last
month and has taken donations from seven corporations, according to a
list the inaugural committee recently posted to its website. They are a
tiny fraction of the 417 inaugural "benefactors" announced to date, but
include some big corporate figures.
Telecom giant AT&T, which
spent more than $14 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies
during the first nine months of 2012, has been awarded more than $101
million in federal contracts in the current fiscal year, federal
contracting data show. Microsoft, which spent nearly $5.7 million on
lobbying, has been awarded nearly $4.6 million in technology contracts
with Homeland Security, the White House and several other agencies so
far during this fiscal year.
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Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning
watchdog group, has sharply criticized Obama's decision to take
corporate money. "Such donations are more troubling when they come from
companies that have significant ongoing business with the federal
government," said Robert Weissman, the group's president. "They will
expect a very good hearing regarding any concerns, complaints or
aspirations they might have."
In a statement, inaugural
spokeswoman Addie Whisenat said the donations "fully comply with the
laws governing contributions to an inaugural committee" and noted that
Obama has imposed other restrictions not required by law, such as
refusing donations from lobbyists and political action committees.
addition, companies that took federal bailout money under the Troubled
Asset Relief Program can't donate unless they have repaid federal funds.
officials declined to comment. Officials with AT&T did not return
telephone calls Monday. Its political action committee donated to
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign.
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corporate donor, Centene Corporation, manages health insurance programs
for more than a dozen states. Those programs include Medicaid, the
federal-state health insurance system for the poor, and the Children's
Health Insurance Program. The Congressional Budget Office estimates
insurance coverage will be expanded to 7 million more Americans in both
programs next year as the new federal health care law takes effect.
President and CEO Michael Neidorff donated more than $66,000 in the
2012 election to Obama and the Democratic National Committee and $25,000
to the Republican National Committee. Company officials did not respond
to telephone calls and e-mails Monday.
Another company with health care interests, Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss drug firm, Roche, also donated.
works proactively to ensure that the company plays a positive role in
the communities in which we live and operate," the company said in a
statement. "Genentech is proud to provide support for the presidential
Inaugural officials have not said how much the corporations and
individuals have donated, but must publicly release that information 90
days after the event in a report to the Federal Election Commission.
the meantime, the committee has voluntarily released an initial list of
donors, which includes anyone who has contributed at least $200. It
includes wealthy Democratic contributors, such as Alida Rockefeller
Messinger, a Standard Oil heir who last year donated $1 million to a
pro-Obama super PAC.
The other corporate donors listed by the
committee: Financial Innovations, a political mass marketing firm run by
Mark Weiner, an Obama fundraiser; Stream Line Circle; and Whittier
Trust Co., a California investment management firm. Steve Anderson, a
Whittier executive, said the firm did not donate but handled a
contribution for a client, whom he declined to name.
Inaugural committee officials say they will release the names of additional donors on a regular basis.
is seeking big donations for the inaugural event, which includes the
traditional parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and inaugural balls.
Companies and institutions that give $1 million will be rewarded with
tickets to VIP receptions, reserved bleacher seats from which to watch
the parade and four inaugural ball tickets. Perks for corporate donors
at the $100,000 level include two tickets to the ball.