This year, top-level George Washington donors — individuals paying $250,000 and institutions breaking $1 million — get reserved parade seats and tickets to an inaugural ball, among other perks. John Adams donors, despite paying a $150,000 starting price, don’t get reserved bleacher seats.
Purchasing the Thomas Jefferson and James Madison packages, starting at $75,000 and $10,000, respectively, affords only “special,” but not “premium,” event access.
All four levels of presidential packages do provide access to a “Finance Committee Road Ahead Meeting,” which suggests another push for contributions.
Corporate cash and top-shelf ticket packages and daily deals are not the only changes from 2009. The Presidential Inaugural Committee previously disclosed donors, including their hometowns and contribution amounts, a month before Obama was sworn in.
But the committee’s first disclosure this year came last Friday evening, when it published on its website about 400 benefactors, including a handful of corporations. The list included neither donation amounts nor benefactors’ employer or hometown, information the Federal Election Commission requires within 90 days after the event.
“Obama was not only disclosing a lot more [in 2009], but he was bragging about it,” said Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the open-government advocate Sunlight Foundation. “It’s startling now because it’s so transparently untransparent.”
The planning committee’s list of donors this year includes seven corporations and a number of Obama donors who were top 2012 campaign bundlers, according to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks political donations.
Along with giants such as Microsoft and AT&T, benefactors include biotech firm Genentech, which lobbied Congress heavily during its health care overhaul. Also making the list is Financial Innovations Inc., a marketing firm based in Rhode Island that ran the Obama campaign’s official online store last year.
Neither Genentech nor Financial Innovations immediately returned calls for comment on Thursday.
Obama’s decision to solicit $1 million donations and corporate cash is a return to recent tradition. The FEC allows unlimited contributions. But George W. Bush capped donations for his first and second inaugurations at $100,000 and $250,000, respectively. He also accepted corporate money, bringing in $30 million in 2001 and $42 million in 2005, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Bill Clinton’s organizers unsuccessfully tried to sell million-dollar corporate packages in 1993, though they did rake in cash donations up to $250,000 en route to raising between $25 million and $30 million.
Representative Michael Capuano, the Somerville Democrat, said the changes in donation limits could be avoided if, as he advocates, inaugurations are toned down and publicly funded.
“It’s a reality,” Capuano said of the decision to lift contribution limits, “but it’s a reality we could change if we wanted to. . . . I come from a different world. I cannot believe somebody would donate $1 million for two tickets to anything.”
David Uberti can be reached at email@example.com