President Joe Biden’s scaled-back inauguration ceremony this year was bankrolled in part by six-and-seven figure contributions from Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates.
They were among the donors with Seattle connections tapped by Biden’s inaugural committee, which raised nearly $61.3 million, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.
Boeing was among the top donors, giving $1 million — the maximum accepted from corporations by the inaugural committee. Microsoft gave $500,000, and Amazon donated nearly $327,000 in software and web-hosting services, the FEC filing shows.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder, and his wife, Melinda, gave $250,000 each. Microsoft President Brad Smith donated $100,000. Ex-Microsoft president Jon Shirley and his wife, Kimberly, both donated $40,000.
Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky, who hosted Biden at his Seattle home for a 2019 fundraiser, gave $25,000, as did Seattle investor and attorney Gregory Moga.
The outpouring of largesse for incoming presidents by wealthy corporations and individual donors — many with vested interests in the policies of incoming administrations — is a bipartisan tradition criticized by some campaign-finance reform advocates.
As the Biden presidency begins, big firms like Amazon are facing renewed scrutiny over their treatment of employees, market domination and skyrocketing profits even as many businesses and workers have suffered financially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden raised Amazon’s role in retail job losses during his November 2019 Seattle visit. “You’ve done good things. But 200,000 salespeople are out of work because people are shopping online now,” he said at the time.
Other corporations who gave the maximum $1 million included AT&T, Bank of America, Comcast, Pfizer, Lockheed Martin and Uber. Major unions also chipped in, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which donated $1 million.
Biden’s haul was small compared with former President Donald Trump, who raised a record $107 million for his 2017 inauguration and took massive checks from Republican megadonors, including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million, according to The Associated Press.
Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon also donated to Trump’s inauguration. Spokespersons for the companies did not immediately respond Wednesday morning to requests for comment.
The private donations typically pay for expensive soirees and other celebrations that accompany the official, taxpayer-funded inauguration ceremony.
This year’s Jan. 20 inauguration was a comparatively muted and largely virtual event. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in before a relatively small crowd at a fenced off and heavily guarded U.S. Capitol, just a couple weeks after the insurrection by Trump supporters.
The New York Times reported top donors to the inauguration were offered perks including exclusive mementos and special access to virtual events with Biden and Harris as a substitute for in-person rope-line photo opportunities typically offered to VIPs in past years.
The Biden campaign had previously disclosed the names of donors to the inauguration committee, but not the dollar amounts and other details. Those were only revealed in the 6160-page FEC filing submitted Tuesday ahead of the deadline, 90 days after the inauguration.
Legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would tighten restrictions on inauguration donations and require more transparency.
H.R. 1, a sweeping campaign-finance reform proposal known as the For The People Act, would cap such donations at $50,000 and require disclosure of donations of more than $1,000 within 24 hours.
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