President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration is set to take place early on Thursday amid strict Covid-19 protocols. Unlike previous inaugurations that have drawn massive crowds to the White House, this is going to be a smaller affair, which will mostly be online.
Given the risks from the pandemic, and a potential threat in light of the recent US Capitol Hill attacks, Biden’s inauguration team has urged supporters to stay home.
Biden’s inaugural committee, however, has seen massive private donations flowing in from several tech giants and corporates.
Also read: No Trump, Masked Crowd & Lady Gaga on Stage: Why Biden’s Inauguration Will Be Like No Other
Here’s what you need to know:
— Biden’s inauguration committee has been offering different perks for different bands of donation. According to a list put out by the organising committee, it’s offering VIP donor packages for as much as $1M for corporations and $500k for individuals.
— For individuals, each bracket — the highest being $500k and the lowest $25k — offers different perks. The highest bracket offers virtual signed photographs from the Biden and Kamala Harris, four VIP tickets to a future in-person event for which dates have not been decided, exclusive merchandise among other things. The lowest bracket, meanwhile, offers only a virtual invitation to concerts and the inauguration.
— A list issued by the organising committee has shown big names among the list of donors. Microsoft, Google, Alphabet. Inc, Verizon, Qualcomm and Boeing were among the many big corporations who have donated for the event.
Also read: US Capitol Under Temporary Shut Down Over Fire Days Ahead of Joe Biden’s Inauguration Event
Why are donations raising eyebrows?
While the US Congress usually pays for the inauguration with taxpayers money, concerts and other receptions are funded by the inaugural committee of the president. But given that this is going to be a smaller event, it is raising eyebrows because it may create corporate influence in the government.
Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America, told The New York Times, “We have supported inauguration events over many administrations on a nonpartisan basis because we view it as part of our civic commitment for an important national event… The private sector has traditionally done so and we expect to provide support for ceremonies in January as appropriate, given the health crisis and other factors that may impact it.”
Big money in the form of donations will also give way for lobbyists to influence the government, experts say.
Craig Holman writes in The Hill, “Inaugural affairs are a haven for corporations and wealthy special interests to throw money at the feet of the incoming administration and to cozy up with the new president and lawmakers at VIP inaugural festivities offered to the biggest donors. Inauguration after inauguration makes it clear who are these big donors: businesses and wealthy individuals who almost always want something in return from the new administration.”
What happens to the surplus money?
Biden’s inauguration is likely to cost significantly less than that of Donald Trump’s held in 2016. Any surplus funds are usually donated to charities a few months after the inauguration.
Trump’s inaugural committee had donated $3 million to organisations involved in hurricane rescue efforts, and $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady Melania Trump.
It is yet to be established where Biden’s team will donate the money.