WASHINGTON, DC (USA Today)-- Reversing his earlier stance, President Obama will accept corporate money to pay for his second inauguration, the event's organizers said Friday.
"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 spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in an e-mail.
The committee will not accept money from lobbyists or political action committees and will publish the names of donors to a website "regularly," she said.
The decision marks a dramatic reversal from his first inauguration when Obama banned corporate, lobbyist and PAC donations and imposed a $50,000 cap on other contributions. At the time, spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama banned corporate money and imposed other restrictions to "change business as usual in Washington."
The inaugural comes on the heels of a record $2 billion presidential campaign in which Obama received more than 4 million donations. The president refused money from PACs and federal lobbyists in the campaign. He also banned lobbyists and corporate contributions to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, which struggled to raise funds.
No budget has been released for next month's swearing-in festivities, which include a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue and a swirl of officials balls. Spending on his 2009 inauguration topped $53 million, but organizers say they expect a smaller event. Roughly 1.5 million people crowded onto the National Mall on Jan. 20, 2009, to see Obama sworn in at the nation's first African American president.
Obama's camp has imposed one limit on corporate money: Donations will be refused from companies that have not re-paid money received from federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, which bailed out many financial institutions following the 2008 financial crisis.
Obama championed limits on political spending during his tenure in the Senate and has touted his administration's record on ethics and transparency. But he has reversed course on campaign-finance issues several times.
During his 2008 campaign, he became the first major party nominee to reject public funding for the general election -- a move that has helped drive up election costs to record levels.
He denounced the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that paved the way for unlimited corporate and union donations to independent super PACs as a "threat to our democracy." But this year, he encouraged donations to a super PAC aiding his campaign in the face of heavy spending by GOP groups.
Public Citizen, a liberal-leaning watchdog group, blasted Obama's action Friday, noting that his public inaugural events Jan. 21 will fall on the second anniversary of the Citizens United ruling.
"The American people have the right to expect something other than an inauguration brought to them by Bank of America," Public Citizen President Robert Weissman in a statement.
Whisenant said Obama remains committed to reducing the influence of political action committees and lobbyists on policy. "President Obama is the only president who has refused to accept donations from PACs and lobbyists for his inaugural committee," she said.
Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY