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Trump Inaugural Gives Corporations an Outlet to Press Policy Agendas

Boeing, casino interests on the roster

Sheldon Adelson is among the casino executives on the Trump inaugural committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sheldon Adelson is among the casino executives on the Trump inaugural committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The inauguration of Donald Trump, with a potential tab of $75 million, may offer corporations and their executives more than just candlelight dinners with the new president and his incoming Cabinet picks. It also could afford them moments to make the case for their policy agendas.

Donors to and members of Trump’s inaugural host committee have plenty of business before the government, as they offer big money to help foot the bill for the January festivities. The inaugural committee members hail from casinos, manufacturing outfits and financial firms, among others.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to confirm support for Trump and the new administration and to make up for bad bets in the campaign,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance and lobbying reports. “This is money that is unlimited in size, and it goes to support the celebration of his victory, so the symbolism can’t be beat if you’re looking to ingratiate yourself, your company, with the new administration.”

Companies and individuals may donate as much as they’d like, though officials with the inaugural host committee said they prohibit contributions from any registered federal or state lobbyist. The committee has put together packages of tickets and perks, including intimate receptions, for corporations that donate up to $1 million.

A committee spokesman did not respond to requests for details on how much it has raised to date or which companies have offered the most money. The committee will report its donors next spring, months after the Jan. 20 inauguration.

One company, Boeing, which the president-elect has targeted in recent tweets, has contributed $1 million, in line with its donations to the 2013 inauguration, a company official said. Trump blasted the aircraft manufacturer for what he said were overly high costs to build a new Air Force One. The incoming president also has said he opposes the Iran nuclear deal, which enabled Boeing to announce it would sell 80 planes to Iran Air.

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“We are pleased to continue our tradition of supporting presidential inaugurations,” the company said in a statement.

Other firms that donated to recent inaugurations — or whose employees gave big, such as Microsoft and Google — did not respond to requests for comment or declined comment. Erica Lucca of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller said Microsoft did “not have anything to share on the inauguration.”

One industry — casinos — is well represented among the inaugural committee’s leaders, who include Sheldon Adelson, chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, and Gail Icahn, the wife of financier Carl Icahn, who took over Trump Entertainment Resorts last February after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

Adelson has opposed efforts, favored by some in the casino industry, to expand online gambling, including a bill that would allow domestic online poker operators to do business under the purview of the Commerce Department and state regulators. Backers of the bill, such as its chief sponsor Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, have said they’re hopeful the next president could weigh in with support.

Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, acknowledged the ongoing rift among casino ventures over online gambling but said the industry group still was working to find common ground.

Generally, the organization is elated about Trump’s move to the White House.

“We’re pretty excited here at the AGA,” Freeman said. “A former casino owner was elected the next president of the United States.”

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Though the organization has not said whether it will donate to the inaugural committee, the AGA has dispatched a memo to the Trump transition team with a wish list of policy ideas, including an effort to repeal an almost 25-year-old federal prohibition on sports betting in states. The group is working behind the scenes with sports leagues and others, Freeman said during a news conference call on Tuesday.

The Trump committee’s goal of raising up to $75 million would make it the biggest haul of recent inaugurations. President Barack Obama’s inaugural committee reported bringing in $53 million for his 2009 fete, while George W. Bush’s 2005 committee disclosed $42 million, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Such disclosures were mandated by a 2002 campaign finance overhaul.

The official fanfare, which includes a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, won’t be the only festivities for the inaugural weekend.

Some companies and lobbying outfits are planning to host inaugural balls for state organizations in Washington and other parties.

The Georgia State Society’s inaugural gala, for one, boasts “diamond” level sponsor Aflac at $100,000; “platinum” sponsor Southern Co., an energy company, at $50,000; and several “gold” and “silver” level sponsors at $25,000 and $10,000, including UPS, Coca-Cola Co., the Nuclear Energy Institute, and lobbying and law firms Dentons and Squire Patton Boggs, according to an invite.

The Peach State can celebrate at least one of its own, GOP Rep. Tom Price, who has been designated as Trump’s pick to lead the Health and Human Services Department.

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