June 12, 2021

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Joe Biden’s inaugural committee will accept corporate donations up to $1 million, but bar lobbyists and fossil fuels

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WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden’s newly formed inaugural committee will accept donations from individuals up to $500,000 and from corporations up to $1 million, a transition official told CNBC on Monday.

The committee will bar any contributions from registered lobbyists, foreign agents and the fossil fuel industry.

A newly created inaugural committee website released Monday initially limited online donations to $100,000. But a Biden transition official later clarified to CNBC that this figure reflected a limit set by the ActBlue fundraising platform that the inaugural committee is using for online donations, and not a limit set by the inaugural committee itself.

The inaugural committee’s ban on donations from lobbyists and the oil and gas industry represents a continuation of the Biden presidential campaign’s rules, which banned donations from registered lobbyists and foreign agents, and anything over $200 from fossil fuel company employees.

The inaugural committee goes a step further than the campaign, however, barring any donations from “fossil fuel companies (i.e., companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution or sale of oil, gas or coal), their executives, or from PACs organized by them.”

But by green-lighting corporate contributions up to $1 million, the committee offers American businesses and trade associations their first real opportunity to visibly, and monetarily, show support for the incoming administration.

Also on Monday, the Biden transition announced the leadership team for the inaugural committee. Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University, a prominent historically black college, was named chief executive officer of the committee.

Former Biden campaign senior advisor and chief operating officer Manu Varghese will serve as the executive director, joined by two deputy executive directors: Erin Wilson, a former Biden campaign aide, and Yvanna Cancela, a Nevada state senator.

The team Biden announced Monday will be tasked with an unprecedented challenge: How to put on a presidential inauguration during a pandemic.

One of Biden’s core values during the presidential campaign was his insistence on responsible public health precautions, so it’s unlikely that this January’s events will feature the kinds of balls and mass gatherings on the National Mall that have traditionally accompanied American presidential inaugurations.

And while plans for Biden’s swearing-in are still in the early stages, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain recently suggested that virtual inauguration events, similar to this year’s Democratic National Convention, might be the way to go.

“They’re going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of disease. That’s our goal,” Klain said during a Nov. 22 appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

“You know, we ran a very effective and I think engaging Democratic convention this year in August, in a way that was safe for the people to participate and watch it, in a way that communicates with the American people,” Klain added.

Biden’s new fundraising rules represent a stark departure from the inauguration of President Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor. Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee placed no limits on the amount of money corporations and individuals were permitted to donate, as long as they were not foreign.

As a result, Trump raised a staggering $107 million for his inaugural events, which included three official inaugural balls and a bevy of VIP events in and around Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel.

How, exactly, Trump’s team spent all that money on relatively few events has been the subject of controversy ever since it happened. In January of this year, Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine sued the Trump inaugural committee, alleging that it misused funds in violation of District of Columbia law. The suit is ongoing.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that contributions would be limited to $100,000.

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