Unlike presidential and congressional campaigns, inaugural committees aren’t precluded from accepting corporate donations, giving corporations a rare opportunity to write big checks to politicians.
Biden banned his inaugural committee from taking money from foreign lobbyists and agents as well as fossil fuel companies, but he accepted corporate contributions of up to $ 1 million and checks ranging up to $ 500,000 from individuals. (Obama didn’t take the company’s money for his inauguration in 2009, but relented in 2013.)
Others reaching the $ 1 million cap include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union; the Sherwood Foundation, a Nebraska nonprofit run by Warren Buffett’s daughter, Susie Buffett; Levantine Entertainment LLC; and Masimo Corporation, a medical technology company whose founder, Joe Kiani, was a major donor to a super PAC that supported Biden during the Democratic primary.
Other corporate donors who have given at least $ 100,000 to Biden’s inaugural committee include Amazon and Google, which are pushing back calls for tighter, if not dismantled, regulations. United Airlines, which has been hit hard by the pandemic and has benefited from federal support, donated more than $ 200,000.
Ford, Doordash, Airbnb, Charter Communications, Anheuser Busch, Walmart, Verizon, Yelp, health insurer Anthem, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Holland & Knight law and lobbying firm, Dow Chemical, General Motors, FedEx, the company Biopharmaceutical Amgen and the parent company of Quicken Loans donated at least $ 100,000 each.
The National Football League, which has found itself at the forefront of cultural wars and has been targeted by conservatives in recent years, also donated $ 100,000.
Senior executives at some companies issued their own checks, including Microsoft President Brad Smith, who contributed $ 100,000, and Amazon’s David Zapolsky, who gave $ 25,000.
Unions, keen to see laws passed that would facilitate organizing efforts, also contributed a lot of money, including the United Association; the International Union of United Food and Commercial Workers. The American Federation of Teachers, which urged caution over efforts to reopen schools amid the pandemic, gave $ 250,000.
More than a dozen individual donors gave the maximum of $ 500,000, including Ken Griffin, the hedge fund billionaire and Republican megadonator; Constance Williams, Hess’ heiress and former Pennsylvania State Senator; the private equity manager Jean-Pierre Conte; John Foley, general manager of Peloton; and Democratic megadoners Haim Saban and Donald Sussman. Venture capitalist Chris Sacca and his wife, Crystal Sacca, each donated $ 500,000.
All in all, Biden has passed President Barack Obama’s fundraiser for his two inaugurations, even though many traditional festivities have been canceled this year due to the pandemic. Obama grossed around $ 53 million for his first inauguration in 2009 and $ 43 million for his second in 2013.
Biden, however, grossed far less than President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee in 2017 – a record transport of $ 107 million. DC Attorney General Karl Racine then sued Trump’s inaugural committee, alleging he violated his nonprofit status by overpaying to book a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel.
Alex Thompson contributed reporting.