Barack Obama will begin his second term with a corporate-funded inauguration, even though he rejected corporate donations for his first inauguration in 2009. The decision was made despite a popular movement calling for Obama to keep corporate money out of the upcoming celebration.
Robert Weissman, president of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, issued a public letter to Barack Obama on November 28, appealing to him to refuse corporate funding for the inauguration. “When the American people watch you take the oath of office, they should not wonder if you are also obligated to corporate donors,” Weissman wrote.
Over 30,000 citizens signed a petition supporting this call. Many added personalized messages elaborating their feelings on the issue. “America isn't for sale to the corporations that have caused the economic situation we are in,” wrote petition-signer Dana Farley. “Keep them out of the inauguration.”
The decision to accept corporate funding was made to ensure budget goals are met for the event, said Presidential Inauguration Committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant in a statement issued earlier today. However, the committee surpassed their budget needs by $7 million in 2009 without taking any corporate money, according to The New York Times. That year, the funding for the president’s inauguration came entirely from individual contributors.
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Weissman said that if private donations are accepted, they ought to be in small dollar amounts from private citizens. Looking forward, he would like to see a public inauguration fund that could be used by elected candidates from either political party. If festivities seem to be too lavish a use of public funds, they can always be scaled down.
Which particular corporations are lining up to bankroll the ceremony on January 21? It is too soon to know, but Whisenant pledged transparency and said in her announcement that all information about donors will be posted on the Internet.
Weissman acknowledged that there was little citizens could do at this point to change the funding of the inauguration. He advised those concerned about corporate money in American politics to join the campaign against the Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which sanctioned an influx of donations from the corporate world to political campaigns. President Obama himself has criticized the decision and called for a constitutional amendment to overturn it.
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