Biden’s Million-Dollar Inaugural Donors Lobbied Against His Agenda

The Business Roundtable increased its lobbying spending last year by 70% over the previous year as its members pushed to pass the infrastructure bill first and kill the Build Back Better Act.

Biden’s Million-Dollar Inaugural Donors Lobbied Against His Agenda
Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States by Chief Justice John Roberts as Jill Biden holds the Bible during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 20, 2021.

President Biden marked the one-year anniversary of his inauguration last week with a news conference and a video starring Tom Hanks promoting his administration’s achievements, while much of his domestic agenda remains blocked in the Senate. 

Last year, Biden continued his predecessors’ tradition of accepting large donations from corporations to his nonprofit inaugural committee, even though the proceedings were mostly virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the corporate giants that donated, like Lockheed Martin and Pfizer, spend tens of millions of dollars annually on lobbying for contracts and influence on legislation and policy throughout the federal government.  

The Biden inaugural would not disclose the amounts given by donors around the events, only their names, but in April an FEC disclosure showed that the televised events raised $61.8 million, including $1 million apiece (the cap on contributions that the committee set for itself) from 10 large companies, with smaller amounts coming from other corporations, some labor unions, and wealthy donors.

A donation of $1 million is considerably more than a corporation can normally give to an elected official in one fell swoop. In the 2020 election cycle, corporate PACs could contribute up to $10,000 to a federal candidate committee, augmented with up to $15,000 donated to a national party committee and padded with up to $45,000 apiece to the parties’ accounts for conventions, buildings, and legal and recount committees—still, nowhere near giving $1 million to the winner of the presidential election.

After the first year of a Biden White House, many inaugural donors are set to benefit from the hefty spending of the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law in November, while many of their trade associations lobbied against the Democrats’ signature Build Back Better Act that ran aground in the Senate and will now be broken into legislative pieces.