Obama’s Inauguration Brought to You by Bank of America


The 2013 Presidential Inauguration, brought to you by Bank of America.

No, we’re not going to see that banner next month, when President Obama takes the oath of the office.

But the president’s advisors are recommending that he accept corporate contributions to pay for the upcoming inauguration festivities.

It’s a sign of the times that such an idea is being seriously considered; we’ll know soon if it’s going to be adopted.

Corporate funding of inaugural activities is a patently horrible idea.

It should go without saying that corporate funding and/or sponsorship of the inauguration and surrounding festivities is inherently corrupting. But apparently it does need to be said.

Such funding arrangements pose the very real risk of political corruption; that is, that the corporate donors to the inauguration will expect — and receive — something in return. The concern is less that they get a tax break in exchange for their million-dollar donation than that they get better access — their calls returned faster, their proposals reviewed in a more favorable light. Human nature being what it is, this problem is nearly unavoidable, even assuming top officials act in good faith and with no conscious intent to favor donors.

Even more unavoidable is the appearance of corruption; there is no way for the American people to see major corporate names associated with the inauguration and not assume those corporations are paying for a lot more than the inauguration festivities.

Delayed by a day from the traditional January 20, this year’s inauguration will be held on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s supremely misguided decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Now, it’s a very good thing that President Obama has stated not only that the decision was wrong, but that it is such a threat to the functioning of our democracy as to require a constitutional amendment to overturn it — and, with the election complete, it’s time to ask the president for stepped-up efforts to build support for, and enact, a constitutional amendment.

It would be more than a bitter irony to have corporations sponsor or fund the inauguration on the anniversary of Citizens United; it would undermine the case for corporate-free elections.

Corporate donations would corrupt in another vital dimension, as well, transforming a public event into a commercialized one. The Wall Street Journal reports that advisors recommending accepting corporate contributions argue that “the inauguration [is] more of a civic event than a partisan political affair.” But that is no argument for accepting corporate contributions. The inauguration is as grand an official, public celebration as America has. Accepting corporate contributions would degrade and diminish the fundamentally public nature of the event itself.

It shouldn’t be a controversial proposition that public events should be supported by public funds. A basic nonpartisan framework should be settled upon for what constitutes an appropriate public outlay for the inauguration — well in advance of the next presidential election — and public inauguration festivities should be calibrated to that funding commitment. There is no need for a lavish event. On the other hand, even in budget-constrained times, the country is well able to afford a reasonable expenditure to celebrate our democracy and welcome the new term of a president.

Recent tradition has involved accepting outside, private funding for inaugural events, and it may be that available public funds are presently insufficient to cover costs associated with the festivities. In this case, accepting low-dollar donations from the American people would seem an appropriate remedy.

In this context, President Obama established the right precedent in 2009 in refusing corporate contributions for the inauguration. By reaffirming this approach, Obama can hopefully for the long-term place a proper boundary on corporate entanglement with the inauguration.

Is this a symbolic issue? You might say so. But what is being symbolized is whether our democracy should be for sale.

It’s not asking too much that some element of our democracy be corporate-free.

You can add your name to those calling for President Obama to do the right thing, here.

Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen.

December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism