Donald Trump is trying to keep the names of the people and companies donating millions of dollars to his inauguration festivities this week a secret – a break from his Republican and Democratic predecessors in the White House.
A federal law passed when George Bush was in office required presidents to reveal names of contributors, but only 90 days following the inauguration.
Some names have been leaked out or have been released by the donors themselves. Chevron gave $500,000 and will sponsor additional events and Boeing pledged $1 million, according to the companies. AT&T and JPMorgan Chase also donated, according to the companies. Other corporate donors include those who donated to Obama’s inauguration or had declined to contribute to the Republican National Convention last summer, including UPS, Bank of America and Deloitte, according to The New York Times.
“It is all about access and influence,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonpartisan public advocacy group Public Citizen. “Donations come in very large amounts and from those who almost always want something from the new administration.”
Occidental Petroleum, one of Clinton’s donors, for example, reached a settlement with the Energy Department in a price-fixing case after Clinton took office. AT&T, one of Obama’s donors, lobbied for regulatory approval of a merger with rival T-Mobile.
Trump’s decision doesn’t surprise those who have watched him hire or appoint donors and lobbyists as well as advocate for secrecy.
John Wonderlich, executive director for the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for more openness in government, called Trump one of the most secretive candidates in modern history. “This trend is continuing through the pre-presidency and likely the presidency,” he said.
Trump is expected to raise more than $90 million – a record amount – from people and corporations to pay for days of activities, including receptions, balls and the parade surrounding the 58th inauguration celebration. Taxpayers will spend millions more on the official swearing-in ceremony, security, construction and cleanup.
His inaugural committee, like those of previous presidents, is offering special events and housing that includes access to Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence and their families in exchange for at least six-figure donations.
For $100,000, donors will receive two tickets for dinner and a policy discussion with select Cabinet appointees. For $250,000, there’s two tickets to a lunch with women of the first family. For $1 million, there’s four tickets to a lunch featuring Cabinet appointees and congressional leaders and four tickets to a dinner with Pence and his wife, Karen.
Trump tapped his longtime friend, Tom Barrack, a California a private equity real estate investor, to head his inaugural committee. Members include wealthy donors or Republican loyalists, including Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets; casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam; and Wisconsin businesswoman Diane Hendricks. They are likely to have made donations themselves and solicited donations from others.
Messages left for other large companies that had donated to past inaugurations including Citigroup, Microsoft and UBS, were not returned. Others, including Wells Fargo, said they were not contributing.
A spokesman for the committee did not return a request for comment. But a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly said that Trump’s team did consider whether to release the names of donors, but determined that disclosing the names early would produce multiple headlines instead of just one when they are required to be released by law.
The government places no limits on contributions though Trump’s committee said it would not accept any money from registered lobbyists. Previous presidents have put some limits on the people who could donate and how much they could donate.
Sources: Financial Review