Inaugural Donor List Released

Posted April 20, 2005 at 6:44pm

A cursory review of the thousands of individuals, corporations, American Indian tribes and others who contributed $42 million to the 55th presidential inauguration in January has uncovered some notable donors.

According to 6,600-plus pages of documentation submitted Wednesday by the 55th Presidential Inaugural Committee to the Federal Election Commission, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians gave $25,000 five days after the inauguration.

The politically active tribe, which runs two lucrative casinos as well as other businesses, had attracted unwanted scrutiny well before the inauguration, due to the tribe’s ties to former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is at the center of multiple federal investigations.

Abramoff also showed up on the committee’s donor pages, making a $566 payment to the committee on Jan. 13.

In the meantime, Danielle Ferro, the daughter of embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), made a $6,900 contribution to the inaugural committee. Ferro has been under fire for consulting fees she has earned from DeLay’s political action committees.

Bob Dole Enterprises, the company belonging to the former Senate Majority Leader, gave $106,000 to the inaugural committee, though many high-profile corporations gave nearly double that amount. The Goldman Sachs Group, for instance, contributed $200,000 to the inauguration, and Dow Chemical gave $250,000.

Several media organizations also anted up for the president’s celebration, according to the FEC documents.

While The Washington Post Co.’s $100,000 contribution had previously been disclosed by the paper, the new report revealed that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Foundation made a $250,000 contribution on Jan. 19. One of Fox News’ contributors, conservative pundit Fred Barnes, gave $600.

Other contributors included Kenneth Starr, the dean of Pepperdine University’s law school who previously investigated then-President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. He gave $550. Conservative minister Jerry Falwell donated nearly $2,500, while former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made an oddly diminutive contribution of $16.

Prominent neoconservative Richard Perle gave $550, while White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card kicked in $1,680. And dozens of Washington lobbyists — including former Reps. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) and Bob Livingston (R-La.) — also padded the list.

Loads of Members of Congress were listed as well — both Republicans and Democrats.

Democratic aides were quick to point out a simple explanation for why their bosses were helping fund the inauguration of their main political adversary.

“Each Member is entitled to a certain number of tickets to inaugural events in the evening, and you have to purchase them from the inaugural committee,” said a spokesman for Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.). “We had people in our district who were interested in attending inaugural events who couldn’t get tickets.”

For helping out his constituents, Meehan was listed as a $1,380 donor.

Other Democrats who contributed included Reps. Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.), James Clyburn (S.C.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Jim Oberstar (Minn.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.), Solomon Ortiz (Texas), Xavier Becerra (Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (Texas), Howard Berman (Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.).

Still, far more Republican lawmakers graced the pages of the report, which at times reads like a who’s who of conservative stars.

Among the GOP lawmakers listed were: Reps. Eric Cantor (Va.), Elton Gallegly (Calif.), George Radanovich (Calif.), Don Young (Alaska), Christopher Cox (Calif.), Rick Renzi (Ariz.), Adam Putnam (Fla.), Tom Feeney (Fla.), Kenny Hulshof (Mo.), Deborah Pryce (Ohio), Wayne Gilchrest (Md.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Bob Ney (Ohio).

Also listed were Sens. Jim Bunning (Ky.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), James Inhofe (Okla.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Judd Gregg (N.H.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Thad Cochran (Miss.), just to name a few.

While some presidents-elect, including Bush, have voluntarily disclosed the names of those supporting their inaugural festivities in recent years, Wednesday’s filing marked the first time they were required to do so under federal law.

Campaign watchdogs praised the disclosure changes. “It is critical that the public know the sources of the tens of millions of dollars contributed for a president’s inaugural celebration,” said Steve Weiss, the communications director and editor for the Center for Responsive Politics. “Until now, the only information made public was what the inaugural committee chose to disclose. Now we are assured of a more complete picture of inaugural donors, albeit 90 days after the event itself.”

The FEC ushered in the new disclosure requirement last year as a result of the sweeping changes contained in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Section 308 of that law requires the disclosure of any contribution to an inaugural committee above $200 and requires the FEC to post the disclosure form on its Web site within 48 hours.

Bush’s inaugural committee went beyond that requirement, choosing to disclose every donation received, no matter how small. While the president set his own $250,000 cap on contributions, the report filed this week listed contributions as small as $1.

The report — which was made available to reporters and the public in a limited fashion Wednesday — was expected to be widely available over the Internet by Thursday. The FEC updates its images on the Web overnight.

Performing an instant analysis of the committee’s fundraising was complicated by the fact that the donations were not listed in alphabetical or chronological order.

The $42 million figure is slightly higher than the $40 million floated to members of the press on and around Jan. 20.

The inaugural committee also reported refunding about $481,000 in donations, according to the report.