Corporations Gave Millions for Trump Inaugural

By Kenneth P. Doyle

Corporate America, which largely shunned Donald Trump during last year’s presidential campaign, embraced him after he won the presidency, providing much of the record $106.7 million raised for Trump’s inaugural festivities in January.

At least 17 companies contributed $1 million or more to Trump’s inaugural committee, according to a new report filed with the Federal Election Commission and reviewed by Bloomberg BNA. In total, nearly 150 companies, large and small, gave to the Trump inaugural, along with hundreds of individual donors.

The biggest corporate contribution—just more than $2 million—came from telecommunications giant AT&T Inc., while more than a half-dozen other well-known companies from various industries gave $1 million each. They included aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co., Bank of America, Dow Chemical Co., drug maker Pfizer Inc., cellular technology company Qualcomm Inc., RAI Services, an affiliate of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and Madison Square Garden Co., owner of the New York arena, other venues and sport franchises.

Other big companies giving at the $500,000 level included Citgo; Exxon Mobil; FedEx; General Motors; Microsoft; Altria; an affiliate of tobacco company Phillip Morris; Amgen Inc., the biotechnology company; and Florida Crystals Corp., the sugar producer. Donor at the $250,000 level included the private prison company GEO Corrections Holdings Inc. and cola company PepsiCo Inc.

Some Donors Obscure

Nearly a dozen corporate contributors to the Trump inaugural at the $1 million level were less well known. They included energy holding company Access Industries, payment processor Allied Wallet, and ethanol producer Green Plains Inc. Some million-dollar donors had even more obscure names, including HFNWA LLC of Chattanooga, Tenn.; LMC IP of Bethesda, Md.; and BH Group LLC of Arlington, Va., which could not be easily identified.

The Trump inaugural committee also received numerous large individual contributions, led by $5 million from casino owner Sheldon Adelson, head of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Notable individual donors at the $1 million level included investment manager Robert Mercer, coal mining entrepreneur Christopher Cline, and Russian-American businessman Alexander Shustorovich.

Some of the Trump inaugural corporate contributions had been revealed earlier through lobbying disclosure filings, but the FEC report filed by Trump’s 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee provided a more complete picture of the inaugural donors. An image of a paper copy of the report was made available online by the FEC April 19, but the report wasn’t immediately available in searchable form.

Companies Had Cut Ties to Trump

Bloomberg BNA’s review of the report filed with the FEC indicated about 150 companies, large and small, contributed to Trump’s inaugural festivities in amounts ranging from millions of dollars to as little as $200.

Trump received far less corporate support during the presidential campaign, when many big companies sought distance from his controversial remarks. Most famously, NBC Universal, which aired Trump’s reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” cut its ties to Trump after his June 2015 presidential campaign announcement, news coverage of which focused on his derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants. Several other companies also cut ties to Trump during the campaign.

Only one publicly traded company, the private prison company GEO Corrections, made any reported contributions to a pro-Trump super political action committee during the presidential campaign, according to an analysis of FEC disclosure reports by Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a law professor at Florida’s Stetson University and a fellow at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. The $100,000 contribution by GEO to the pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, suggested the possible risks and rewards of corporate campaign contributions.

GEO gave the money last August, right after the Obama administration’s Justice Department announced it wanted to end the use of private prisons. GEO’s stock plunged 40 percent on that news. The stock shot back up after the election of Trump, who had made campaign statements supporting private prisons. However, GEO also has been named in a pending FEC enforcement complaint, which alleges that its contribution to the Trump super PAC violated a ban on campaign money from government contractors.

After Trump was elected, many other companies were willing to lend support—at least to his inauguration as president. Corporations and other big donors were actively courted by the Trump inaugural committee with offers such as dinners, lunches and tickets to the inauguration ceremony and other events. According to a brochure obtained and published by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, donors were offered different benefits packages based on the amount they contributed, from $25,000 to $1 million or more.

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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