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In shift, Obama accepts corporate funding for inauguration

U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is joined by his daughter Malia (R) and first lady, Michelle Obama (L) as they watch the show at the officia
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) is joined by his daughter Malia (R) and first lady, Michelle Obama (L) as they watch the show at the officia

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's inauguration committee is accepting corporate donations to help fund the parade and other events associated with his January 21 inauguration after tapped-out Democratic donors spent huge sums helping him get elected.

The move is a shift for Obama, who did not accept corporate donations for his first inauguration in January 2009.

Aides from the Presidential Inaugural Committee confirmed it would accept money from "individual and institutional" givers to help cover the cost of public events not paid for by taxpayers.

"Our goal is to make sure that we will meet the fundraising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history," Addie Whisenant, a committee spokeswoman, said in a statement.

"To ensure continued transparency, all names of donors will be posted to a regularly updated website."

The committee would not accept donations from lobbyists or political action committees (PACs), however, and would not forge sponsorship agreements with people or businesses, she said.

Obama has shifted his position on money in politics before. Earlier this year, despite his opposition to a Supreme Court ruling that allowed outside organizations to spend unlimited amounts in campaign advertising, Obama agreed to allow White House and other high-profile campaign aides to attend fundraisers for a Super PAC designed to support his re-election. Advisers said his shift came as a result of the success of Republican Super PACs.

On Inauguration Day, taxpayers fund the official swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill and related congressional lunches, but the inaugural committee must pay for the parade, balls, and other events.

According to fundraising documents linked to a story by the New York Times, donors have been offered perks including tickets to an inaugural ball, seats for the parade, and access to donor receptions for $250,000 in individual donations or $1 million in institutional or corporate contributions.

Perks are also offered for lesser amounts, down to $10,000 per individual and $100,000 per institution.

A committee aide said there would be no limit on the amount of contributions as long as legal guidelines were met.

The festivities on Inauguration Day will be toned down to reflect the still fragile U.S. economy, a committee aide said. A concert will not be held on the National Mall as it was in the lead-up to the ceremony four years ago, and the number of official Inaugural balls will be whittled down.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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