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Maryland Businesses Pony Up Big Bucks for Inaugural

By Kevin W. McCullough
Capital News Service
Friday, Jan. 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - Maryland companies and individuals had given more than $1 million for this week's inaugural festivities, joining more than 100 other businesses and individuals that had kicked in more than $17 million by Friday.

Maryland donors included huge corporations and at least one deep-pocketed individual: Alan B. Fabian of Cockeysville gave $100,000 to the Presidential Inaugural Committee and got tickets to many of the day's activities, including the swearing-in and the inaugural balls, in return.

"This is really special for us," said Fabian, chief executive officer of The Centre for Management and Technology. "We worked hard for the president. . . . It's a big part of history."

The Presidential Inaugural Committee released the names of "major donors" and the amounts they gave last week, and updated them again Friday. The committee is required to give a full accounting of the donations it received within 90 days of the inauguration.

Major corporate givers from Maryland ranged from the obscure, like Strongbow Technologies, which donated the maximum allowable $250,000, to the familiar, like $100,000 donor Lockheed Martin Corp. Shipbuilding and defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp., which has a significant presence in Maryland, also donated $100,000.

Bethesda-based Marriott International Inc. donated $250,000, as did two of its subsidiaries, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. and Marriott Vacation Club International.

Marriott International spokesman Matthew Carroll defended the total $750,000 contribution as merely a "marketing opportunity." He described Marriott's participation in the inaugural as a chance to develop relationships with business partners and "show off" the company's hotels in its home area, and noted that the company has made similar to donations for previous inaugurations, both Democrats and Republicans.

Carroll disagreed with the charge that the donations are meant to develop political influence. The amount given was based on how many inaugural tickets Marriott required, he said.

But critics say inaugural fund-raising is a clear way for deep-pocketed interests to show their support for the administration, and to maximize the sort of contributions that are normally limited.

Conor Kenny, a researcher for Public Citizen, said that businesses simply would not spend so much money without expecting a return on their investment. Public Citizen, a lobbying and advocacy group, noted that 95 percent of the "major donors" identified on the Inauguration '05 Web site were corporations, corporation chairmen or owners, and they accounted for 96 percent of the $17.1 million disclosed.

The inaugural committee is seeking to raise $30 million to $40 million to pay for all of the inauguration festivities, including the inaugural parade and nine inaugural balls.

Committee spokesman Ben Porritt said this year's fund raising is in line with what was raised for the 2001 inauguration.

The money raised for the event makes it possible for more Americans to participate, he said, and the large private donations help lower ticket prices for average Americans.

The Federal Election Commission requires presidential inaugural committees to disclose their donations no later than 90 days after the inauguration.

The maximum allowable $250,000 donation dwarfs the limits for campaigns, when individuals are only allowed to donate $2,000 per candidate per election, and corporations are prohibited from contributing to anything but the national nominating conventions. Corporations are allowed to donate freely to the inaugural efforts.

Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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