House Democrat pair introduce bill to require limits, disclosures for donations to inaugural committees

Democratic Reps. John Sarbanes (Md.) and Mary Gay Scanlon (Penn.) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would require limits and disclosures for donations to inaugural committees.

The bill, titled the Inaugural Fund Integrity Act, is aimed at addressing the “loopholes” in the current Inaugural Committee guidelines that “allow for abuse of funds,” according to a release from Sarbanes’s office.

Unlike campaign committees, which are prohibited from accepting contributions directly from corporations, inaugural committees currently can accept unlimited amounts of money from virtually anyone, including companies.

The bill would require the quick and full disclosure of expenditures and contributions that total more than $1,000, along with imposing a $50,000 limit on contributions. The legislation would also prohibit donations from foreign nationals and corporate and super-PAC contributions, as well as “straw man” donations, which is when a donor avoids legal limits on political donations by sending money using other people’s names.

“As we continue to channel Americans’ desire to fortify our democracy by creating a more transparent, accountable and responsive government, reforms like these play a critical role in combating the perverse influence of dark money in our politics and prioritizing the public interest over special interests,” Sarbanes wrote in a statement.

Scanlon said it’s “past time” to address the “lack of oversight of inaugural committees” and “increase transparency” surrounding presidential inaugural fundraising.

The proposed guidelines have the potential to significantly alter the typical makeup of presidential inaugural fundraising numbers. President Biden’s inaugural committee, for example, received nearly $62 million between November 2020 and April 2021, a sum largely financed by corporations and wealthy donors, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

These included corporations included Lockheed Martin and Boeing — two of the country’s largest defense contractors — along with Uber, Comcast, AT&T, Google, Pfizer and Bank of America, among others.

While more than former President Obama, who raised about $53 million for his 2009 inauguration and $43 million for his second inauguration in 2013, Biden’s numbers were far lower than former President Trump, who raised more than $100 million for his 2017 inauguration, with a chunk of this coming from billionaire megadonors.

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