Major technology firms join list of Biden inauguration donors

Google was included on the list because it provided online security protections without charge to the inaugural committee, said Google spokesman Mr Jose Castaneda. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Major technology companies like Google and Microsoft, as well as telecommunications giants such as Comcast and Verizon, are among the nearly 1,000 people and groups that have donated at least US$200 (S$265) to the committee organising President-elect Joe Biden's scaled-back inauguration celebration this month.

The donor list, released on Saturday (Jan 9) evening by the committee, was filled mostly with individual donors, including major givers to Democrats such as Mr Arthur Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons; Mr Richard Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California; and Mr Donald Sussman, a hedge fund mogul.

The inaugural committee did not list any of the amounts that these 959 donors had given as at Dec 31, the end of the period covered in the voluntary disclosure.

The actual donor amounts may not be known until 90 days after the inauguration when the committee will be required under law to disclose the names and amounts of all donations more than US$200.

There are no legal limitations on how much a donor can give to an inaugural committee, but Mr Biden's committee voluntarily limited contributions by individuals to US$500,000 and by corporations to US$1 million.

Many of the major corporations that traditionally make large contributions to inauguration events are missing. Some have explained that they are not going to donate, given that the event will largely be virtual because of the pandemic. Others have said they are focusing their donations on helping people affected by economic downturn caused by coronavirus.

But the technology and telecommunications industries, a major source of cash for Mr Biden's campaign and the groups supporting it, are well represented on the list, with donations also coming from Qualcomm, a semi-conductor and software company based in California, and Charter Communications, a cable company.

Google was included on the list because it provided online security protections without charge to the inaugural committee, said Mr Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesman.

Other corporate donations came from the Enterprise Holdings political action committee, which is associated with the company that owns the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands.

Healthcare companies also are prominent on the list, including Anthem, the health insurance giant, MedPoint Management, which provides management services to physicians groups, and Masimo, a maker of electronic patient monitoring devices.

Boeing, the aerospace and military contracting giant, is also listed as a donor.

The Biden team prohibited donations from the oil, gas and coal industries and registered lobbyists.

Labour unions including American Federation of Teachers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers union made contributions.

There was also a sprinkling of celebrities on the list - as was the case with Mr Biden's presidential campaign - including Barbra Streisand.

A spokesman for the inauguration declined to comment when asked on Saturday how much in total Mr Biden's committee had raised.

The fund-raising effort is likely to pale in comparison to the record US$107 million raised four years ago by Mr Donald Trump for his inauguration, with donations of as much as US$5 million from major supporters such as Mr Sheldon Adelson, a casino executive and major Republican donor.

Mr Biden has urged his supporters not to travel to Washington for the inauguration on Jan 20, because outside of the swearing-in ceremony, there will be few large-scale in-person events.

Details on the inauguration schedule still have not been released, and planning for the event has also been affected by the storming of the Capitol last Wednesday by Trump supporters in an outbreak of violence that stirred concerns about security around the swearing-in ceremony.

Organisers have said the inaugural festivities will include a virtual concert with some big-name performers, a ceremony to remember people killed by the coronavirus and a virtual event similar to the elaborate roll-call held at the Democratic National Committee last year, which included short videos from all 57 states and territories.

But the inauguration committee has still tried to pull in large donations by offering an array of unusual perks. Corporations that contribute US$1 million and individuals that contribute US$500,000 will receive an invitation to a virtual event with Mr Biden and Mrs Jill Biden, the future first lady, along with a photo, as well as a similar event with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Mr Doug Emhoff.

The fund-raising effort is continuing, with the committee sending a solicitation to donors on Saturday night shortly after it released the preliminary list of donors.

"Our team is creating a new style of inauguration that integrates traditional elements with creative programming and local events across the country - which is why we're reaching out today," reads the fund-raising e-mail, which was targeted to recipients in different parts of the country.

The committee, according to the e-mail, wants "to make sure we have strong representation across the country as part of our inauguration grassroots donors programme".

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