Inaugural tap: Obama changes course and goes after big donors

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Four years after President-elect Barack Obama said he was going to change how the money culture steers Washington, he is inviting deep-pocketed special interests to write big checks for the festivities of his second inauguration.

That's not the kind of change his supporters were hoping for.

In 2009, Mr. Obama set strict limits for those who wanted to contribute toward the inaugural balls and parties. Individuals were allowed to donate up to $50,000 and corporate dollars were refused altogether.

This time, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is allowing gifts up to $1 million and it has expressly sought corporate donations. So far, AT&T, Microsoft, health-care service provider Centene and marketing firm Financial Innovations Inc. are among the companies that have given, along with hundreds of individuals.

While the Obama committee loosened its limits on big donations, it tightened its disclosure policy. The Sunshine Foundation, a nonprofit watchdog group, said that for the first inauguration the committee posted on its website the dollar amount given by each donor. For the second, next Monday, the committee says it won't disclose contribution amounts until 90 days afterwards.

In other words, there is less transparency and more chance of influence this time around. We expected better of Mr. Obama. If he won't close Washington's money tap, who will?



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