Big Companies Failed to Report Contributions to Trump Inaugural

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Forty-five companies reported giving large contributions totaling more than $15 million to help fund the inaugural ceremonies making Donald Trump the 45th U.S. president.

Several other big companies, however, were listed as contributors by the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee but neglected to report their contributions as required by the federal lobbying law, the Lobbying Disclosure Act. These included such major corporations as Ford Motor Co., Wal-Mart Stores, Quicken Loans, Northrop Grumman and Travelers.

Among those not including their inaugural gifts in reports filed under the LDA were some of the biggest contributors listed in the the Trump inaugural committee’s report filed with the Federal Election Commission. For example, Fidelity National Financial and RAI Services, the parent of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., each gave $1 million to the Trump committee but didn’t include the contributions in LDA reports, at least initially.

A Fidelity National spokesman said in an email after being contacted by Bloomberg BNA that the company was amending its lobbying disclosure report to include its inaugural gift. Other companies, including Ford, Northrop Grumman and Travelers, also said they were amending their LDA reports in response to Bloomberg BNA inquires. All said they neglected to include the contributions in their original reports by mistake.

More than a half-dozen other big companies gave $1 million or more to the Trump inaugural committee and included their contributions in LDA reports, as required. These included AT&T Services Inc., the largest inaugural contributor at nearly $2.1 million.

Some LDA Reports Amended

Several companies have faced controversy over relations with Trump during the presidential campaign and since he took office. Trump said Aug. 16 that he was disbanding two White House business advisory groups as corporate executives faced increased pressure to disavow the president’s remarks regarding the recent racially charged episode in Charlottesville, Va.

Companies contributing to Trump’s inaugural committee generally have said they were continuing a tradition of support for inaugural ceremonies of presidents from both major political parties, not specifically supporting the current president.

A Bloomberg BNA review of the latest semiannual LDA reports on political contributions filed in January and July of this year found 45 companies with lobbying interests before the federal government reported giving a total of nearly $15.2 million in contributions to the Trump inaugural committee.

Following inquiries from Bloomberg BNA, at least four other companies and the National Football League said they were amending their LDA reports to include their inaugural contributions. The contributors all indicated they failed to include these contributions in their original reports by mistake and didn’t intend to try to conceal the contributions.

History of Support for Inaugurals

Ford spokeswoman Anne Hughes said in an email that the car company was filing an amended LDA report listing its $250,000 contribution to the Trump inaugural.

“We have a long history of celebrating American heritage, including presidential inaugural activities,” Hughes said. “Our contribution [to] the 2017 Presidential Inaugural Committee, which previously was reported by media, was inadvertently left off our disclosure filing. An amendment has been filed reflecting the contribution.”

Similar emails were sent by representatives of Northrop Grumman and Travelers, which gave $100,000 each to the Trump inaugural committee.

Several other companies contacted by Bloomberg BNA didn’t respond to a request for comment. Those include RAI Services, listed by the Trump inaugural committee as a $1 million contributor, as well Quicken Loans, listed as contributing $750,000. Quicken Loans did file an amended LDA contributions report Aug. 15, listing its inaugural contribution. In addition, Intel Corp. was listed by the committee as giving $500,000 but didn’t include the contribution on its LDA report, while Wal-Mart didn’t include a $150,000 inaugural contribution on its lobbying report.

The Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball was listed as a $100,000 contributor to the Trump inaugural committee but didn’t include the contribution on its initial LDA report. The commissioner’s office filed an amended report Aug. 15 listing the contribution.

Fidelity National Reports $1M Contribution

John Benton, a spokesman for Fidelity National, told Bloomberg BNA that the financial company was amending its LDA contribution reports to include a $1 million contribution to the Trump inaugural committee made by Fidelity National and its afilliates. Benton said the failure to include the contribution in a lobbying disclosure report filed earlier this year was due to an oversight.

The Trump committee had earlier reported a $500,000 contribution from Fidelity National Financial Inc., a separate contribution of $250,000 from Fidelity National Financial Venture, and another $250,000 contribution from another Fidelity National affiliate, Black Knight Infoserv LLC. Benton told Bloomberg BNA that the Trump committee report misspelled that affiliate’s name as Black Night. He said Fidelity National’s LDA report would be amended to include all the affiliates’ contributions as a $1 million gift to the inaugural committee.

The lobbying disclosure law requires all organizations registered to lobby the federal government, which includes most big companies, to report their political contributions, including campaign contributions made by the company’s PAC or lobbyists and other “honorary” contributions. LDA guidance issued by officials working for the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate, who administer the lobbying law, spells out that contributions to a presidential inaugural committee, a presidential library or other organizations linked to federal officials must be included.

Listing of the inaugural committee contributions in LDA report helps to verify and clarify who actually made the contributions. For example, a $1 million contribution from defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. was listed by the inaugural committee as coming from LMC IP. Lockheed initially refused to verify the contribution, telling Bloomberg BNA earlier this year to wait for the company’s mid-year LDA report in order to verify it. The LDA report filed July 27 by Lockheed included the $1 million inaugural committee contribution.

Some File No LDA Reports

There also were some big contributors to the Trump inaugural committee that don’t file LDA reports. Under the law, these reports are required to be filed by any company or other organization that directly employs paid lobbyists.

For example, Access Industries Holdings Inc., which made a reported $1 million contribution to the Trump inaugural committee, hasn’t registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, though it has been listed for years as a client in LDA reports disclosing lobbying on issues related to taxing repatriated foreign income, among others.

Another $1 million contributor to the inaugural committee was Allied Wallet Inc., whose business involves processing secure online payments. The company doesn’t appear to be registered as either a lobbying organization or a lobbying client under the federal lobbying disclosure law.

Also not filing under the LDA but listed as big inaugural committee contributors were the casino company Wynn Resorts, reported as giving $729,000; the coal company Murray Energy Corp., with $300,000 in reported contributions; and the private prison company GEO Corrections Holdings Inc., with $250,000 in reported inaugural contributions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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