President Barack Obama will accept unlimited corporate donations for his inauguration in January, reversing his position from his first inauguration, according to two sources close to the planning.
The legal maximum donation for an inauguration is $250,000, but four years ago, the president capped all contributions at $50,000 and barred companies from kicking in any money. Obama had also banned corporate money from the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
But the sources say the new decision is driven by pragmatism: the president and his team just wrapped up the most expensive campaign in history - with costs topping $1 billion - and they've determined that their donors are simply tapped out.
The cost of an inauguration can run into the tens of millions. Obama spent $47 million in 2009. And raising that in a matter of six weeks is too difficult without throwing open the flood gates, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The inaugural fundraising team will be screening each corporate donation. Those determined to pose a conflict of interest will be returned. For example, any company that still owes stimulus money or is vying for a big federal contact may be excluded.
The sources said that like last time, the committee will not accept money from lobbyists or PACs. And they said the identity of all contributors and the amounts they give will be disclosed regularly on the committee web site.
There will not be any naming sponsorships -- no one will get to brand the parade, for example, the sources said. There will be various packages for levels of sponsorship, the details of which haven't been worked out yet. Most will likely include premium tickets.
This isn't the president's first reversal from a previous stance on contributions. After nearly two years of blasting super PACs for their involvement in politics, as the election ramped up in February he announced he wouldn't mind his supporters writing multi-million dollar checks to the groups.
In some ways, Obama is returning to tradition. Previous presidents accepted large corporate contributions for their inaugurations. George W. Bush, for example, took a slew of $250,000 checks from companies that included Bank of America, Pfizer, and Exxon Mobil.
Good government group Public Citizen has already written to him and asked him to continue banning corporate contributions.
"When the American people watch you take the oath of office, they should not wonder if you are also obligated to corporate donors," president Robert Weissman wrote in a letter last month. "I am writing to urge you to exercise common sense and conduct a corporate-free, commercial-free inauguration."
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