Trump Inaugural Got Millions From Big Companies

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By Kenneth P. Doyle

President Donald Trump, who received little support from major corporations when he was running for the White House, got millions of dollars in corporate contributions to his inaugural committee after winning the election last November.

At least 21 major companies, ranging from Aetna Inc. to Verizon Communications Inc., made a total of nearly $7 million in contributions of $25,000 or more to the Trump inaugural committee in December, according to federal Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) filings reviewed by Bloomberg BNA.

The biggest contributors included Bank of America Corp, Dow Chemical Co. and Pfizer Inc., each of which reported a $1 million corporate contribution.

The amount reported in LDA filings likely understates the amount of corporate support for the Trump inaugural, which reportedly set fundraising records with total contributions of nearly $100 million. Unlike other recent inaugural committees, Trump’s accepted corporate contributions of up to $1 million and set no limit on individual contributions.

The money was raised to help pay the cost of inaugural festivities including a parade, inaugural balls and other events surrounding Trump’s swearing-in Jan. 20.

FEC Report Not Due Until April

A full accounting of the money raised by the inaugural committee must be filed with the Federal Election Commission, but that report is not due until April. In the meantime, so-called LDA-203 filings listing political contributions provide a glimpse of the support for the Trump inaugural.

The law requires companies and others that lobby the federal government to report their political giving, including campaign contributions and “honorary” payments made at the behest of federal officials. The LDA reports that included payments to the Trump inaugural were in the latest round of year-end LDA-203 contribution reports and in several recent amended year-end reports.

Some big companies that reportedly had plans to contribute to the inaugural, including Boeing Corp. and Chevron Corp., have not yet reported such contributions under the LDA.

Corporations and other donors were 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.

ExxonMobil, Others Gave $500,000

In addition to the $1 million contributions from Bank of America, Dow Chemical and the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the recent LDA reports showed five companies contributed $500,000 each.

These were Altria Client Services LLC, an affiliate of tobacco company Philip Morris; Amgen Inc., the biotechnology company; Exxon Mobil Corp., the energy giant; Microsoft Corp., the technology company; and Florida Crystals Corp., the sugar producer.

Giving $250,000 each were CoreCivic Inc., the private prison company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America and UPS, the shipping company, according to the LDA reports. General Motors Co. reported contributing $200,000.

At the $100,000 level, the LDA reports showed three insurance companies: Aetna Inc., Anthem Inc. and MetLife Group Inc. Also giving $100,000 were Clean Energy Fuels Corp.; utility firm Southern Co. and Verizon Communications.

One company, AFLAC Inc., reported giving $50,000 to the Trump inaugural committee. Three companies—CVS Health Inc., Florida East Coast Industries LLC and Monsanto Co.—reported $25,000 each.

Only One Gave to Trump Super PAC

The opening of corporate checkbooks for the Trump inaugural committee contrasted with the nearly complete lack of publicly reported corporate contributions backing Trump during his campaign.

Only one publicly traded company, the private prison firm GEO Corrections Holdings Inc. made any reported contributions to a pro-Trump super political action committee, according to an analysis of disclosure reports filed with the FEC 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 was seen by some as a harbinger of both the possible risks and rewards of corporate campaign contributions.

The contributor, a unit of the private prison company GEO Group Inc., 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 made campaign statements supporting private prisons. GEO was named in an FEC complaint claiming that its contribution violated a ban on campaign money from government contractors.

Corporate contributions to all super PACs, while they may be legal after recent court decisions rolling back restrictions on corporate campaign money, remain relatively rare.

A recent study of corporate political spending by the Conference Board Committee for Economic Development (CED), a business-led public policy and research organization, found that less than 1 percent of disclosed contributions to major super PACs came from publicly held corporations.

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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