By Jim Hightower
He did it. Unfortunately. Sadly. Disappointingly.
President Barack Obama, reversing his own honorable precedent for his first inaugural, has chosen this time to have corporations pay for his second round of big shindigs. This multimillion-dollar infusion of corporate cash is a crass intrusion by favor-seeking private interests into what ought to be a purely public occasion.
Too much to ask?
Why can’t we have even one corporate-free day in Washington every four years? Is that asking too much?
Obama essentially admitted that allowing corporations to purchase the inaugural is wrong when he tried to sugarcoat his decision by assuring us that every corporate donor will be vetted by White House lawyers to make sure they have no conflicts of interest. Does he think we’re all suckers? As the vigilant watchdog group, Public Citizen points out: “There’s no corporation which has no conflict of interest.”
Even as presidential staffers were publicly pledging there would be no favoritism for the corporate powers that write big checks, they were privately promising potential donors that the three days of inaugural festivities would include exclusive “benefactor brunches,” allowing the elite to hobnob with top administration officials. Getting your ticket punched for a presidential brunch, you see, buys you a rich serving of political access.
Incredibly, Obama is trying to gloss over this special-access ugliness by declaring that the day before his official swearing-in will be a “national day of service.” How noble. As a symbol of America’s commitment to the common good, he’s calling on all of us to spend time serving meals to the homeless or picking up litter — except for check-writing corporate chieftains, who’ll be busy munching on eggs Florentine, sipping from champagne flutes, and helping themselves to plates of power.
Jim Hightower, a radio commentator and public speaker, is also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. Distributed by OtherWords, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.