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.