Four years ago, President-elect Barack Obama vowed to change Washington’s money culture. This year, he is inviting deep-pocketed special interests to write big checks for the festivities of his second inauguration. That’s not the change his supporters were hoping for.
In 2009, Mr. Obama set strict limits on contributions to inaugural balls and parties. Individuals could donate no more than $50,000. Corporate dollars were refused altogether.
This time, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is allowing gifts of as much as $1 million, and expressly seeks corporate donations. AT&T, Microsoft, health-care service provider Centene, and marketing firm Financial Innovations Inc. are among the companies that have given, along with hundreds of individuals.
As the inaugural committee loosened its limits on big donations, it tightened its disclosure policy. The Sunshine Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog group, said that for the first inauguration, the committee posted on its Web site the dollar amount given by each donor. For the second, the committee says it won’t disclose amounts until 90 days after Mr. Obama is sworn in.
So there is less transparency and more chance of influence this time around. If the President won’t shut off Washington’s money tap, who will?