Obama’s Inauguration Brought to You by Bank of America

by ROBERT WEISSMAN

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.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
Bill Blunden
The NSA’s 9/11 Cover-Up: General Hayden Told a Lie, and It’s a Whopper
Richard Ward
Sandra Bland, Rebel
Jeffrey St. Clair
How One Safari Nut, the CIA and Neoliberal Environmentalists Plotted to Destroy Mozambique
Martha Rosenberg
Tracking the Lion Killers Back to the Old Oval Office
Binoy Kampmark
Dead Again: the Latest Demise of Mullah Omar
Kathy Kelly – Buddy Bell
No Warlords Need Apply: a Call for Credible Peacemaking in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
Darker Horizons Ahead: Rethinking the War on ‘IS’
Stephen Lendman
The Show Trial of Saif Qaddafi: a Manufactured Death Sentence
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Karl Grossman
The Case of John Peter Zenger and the Fight for a Free Press
Cesar Chelala
Cultural Treasures Are Also Victims of War
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz