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In November, Obama announced that his presidential inauguration committee would not accept donations from corporations, lobbyists, political action committees, or unions. The move appeared to set Obama apart from President Bush, whose official inaugurations were underwritten almost exclusively by corporations and executives.
Despite Obama’s efforts, inaugural festivities still represent a giant loophole in lobbying rules that have grown progressively stricter in recent years. Whether it’s the high-dollar fundraisers underwriting the official inaugural program, or the corporations and lobbyists throwing lavish parties to woo legislators and government officials, influence appears to come with a price tag.
This week, a plethora of official inaugural events, paid for by a relatively small number of wealthy donors to Obama’s inaugural committee, as well many private parties present opportunities for moneyed interests to curry favor with the incoming president and Congress. Special interests and lobbying firms lure lawmakers with lavish private parties during inauguration week, which are all off the books. Obama is not expected to attend these events personally, but members of Congress, and even members of his administration, who will be the primary vehicle for his change agenda, are expected to show up in droves.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”