Joe Biden campaigned on raising taxes on companies and the wealthy. It didn't dissuade some of America's biggest companies and richest donors from helping to fund his inauguration.
Many of them opened up their checkbooks for Biden’s inaugural committee, helping him raise more than $61 million to fund his largely virtual festivities.
The list included companies with major business before the federal government — on everything from taxes to regulations — such as Uber, Lockheed Martin, Comcast, AT&T, Bank of America, Pfizer and Qualcomm, all of which gave the maximum $1 million.
Unlike presidential and congressional campaigns, inaugural committees are not barred from accepting corporate donations, giving companies a rare opportunity to write big checks to politicians.
Biden barred his inaugural committee from taking money from lobbyists and foreign agents as well as fossil fuel companies, but he accepted corporate contributions of up to $1 million and checks of up to $500,000 from individuals. (Obama didn’t take corporate money for his 2009 inauguration but relented in 2013.)
Others hitting the $1 million cap included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers labor 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 top donor to a super PAC that backed Biden during the Democratic primary.
Other corporate donors that gave at least $100,000 to Biden’s inaugural committee include Amazon and Google, both of which are fending off calls to be more tightly regulated if not dismantled. 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, the health insurer Anthem, Microsoft, PepsiCo, the law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight, Dow Chemical, General Motors, FedEx, the biopharmaceutical company Amgen and the parent company of Quicken Loans gave at least $100,000 each.
The National Football League, which has found itself at the vanguard of culture wars and has been targeted by conservatives in recent years, also gave $100,000.
Top executives at some companies wrote checks of their own, including Microsoft president Brad Smith, who contributed $100,000 and Amazon’s David Zapolsky, who gave $25,000.
Unions, eager to see the passage of laws that would make unionization efforts easier, also chipped in big money, including the United Association, along with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The American Federation of Teachers, which has been urging caution around efforts to reopen schools amid the pandemic, gave $250,000.
More than a dozen individual donors gave the maximum $500,000, including Ken Griffin, the hedge fund billionaire and Republican megadonor; Constance Williams, the Hess heiress and former Pennsylvania state senator; the private equity executive Jean-Pierre Conte; Peloton chief executive John Foley; and the Democratic megadonors Haim Saban and Donald Sussman. The venture capital investor Chris Sacca and his wife, Crystal Sacca, each gave $500,000.
All told, Biden outstripped President Barack Obama’s fundraising for both of his inaugurations even though many of the traditional festivities were canceled this year due to the pandemic. Obama brought in about $53 million for his first inauguration in 2009 and $43 million for his second in 2013.
Biden, however, brought in far less than President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee — a record-setting $107 million haul. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine later sued Trump’s inaugural committee, alleging that it had violated its nonprofit status by overpaying to book a ballroom at the Trump International Hotel.
Alex Thompson contributed reporting.
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