Inauguration ’09: Dollars for Parties, or Here’s Mote in Your Eye!

Noted in all the media coverage of President Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, activities and festivities was the tired storyline, “Corporate interests wield influence via inaugural.” Reporters and editors and activists trotted out the quadrennial line of attack that business interests were using their vast resources to curry favor by sponsoring celebrations and crudités, circumventing lobbying rules in spirit if not in law. This AP story was typical: “THE INFLUENCE GAME: Inaugural is lobbying schmooze.”

The coverage always and incorrectly boils down to a view of the Washington world as purely exchange-driven, that groups and people only spend money in D.C. for pecuniary reasons. Hardly even examined was the idea that the inauguration of a new president is a big deal, a moment in history, and people — even people associated with business –want to take part.

And the coverage also always seems to focus on business as being the major actor/offender. Labor spends millions? Eh… Environmentalists or other activists whoop it up? Hey, it’s green inaugural.

We were going to let the issue slide until happening upon this typically ugly news release from Public Citizen, the Naderite group, which appeared to be the framework for many of the stories, “The Presidential Inauguration, Brought to You by the Few, the Wealthy.”

And if trial lawyers are shelling out big money? Not much media attention at all..


Trial lawyer contributions to Obama Inaugural Activities – $50,000 Maximum Contribution 
Name Firm City State Description
Bergman, Matthew Bergman & Frockt Vashon WA asbestos attorneys
Budd, Dorothy Baron & Budd Dallas TX mesothelioma, asbestos, toxic substances
Budd, Russell Baron & Budd Dallas TX mesothelioma, asbestos, toxic substances
Casey, David Casey, Gerry et al San Diego CA personal injury, wrongful death
Chesley, Stanley Waite, Schneider et al Cincinnati OH securities class action
Coffey, John Bernstein, Litowitz et al Bronxville NY securities class action
Cohen, Steven Cohen Law Group Chicago IL whistleblower, qui tam, drug-company lawsuits
Hinkle, Donald Hinkle & Foran Tallahassee FL personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability
Lerach, Michelle Coughlin, Stoia et al La Jolla CA securities class action
Smith, Jock Cochran, Cherry et al Montgomery AL trial lawyer, Johnnie Cochran partner
Titelman, William Bernstein, Liebhard & Lifshitz Washington DC securities class action
Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Law Firm Websites      

We compiled this list not to condemn the lawyers for their contributions. They supported Barack Obama for president, support his goals, and wanted to take part in the inaugural activities. Good for them.

But didn’t their support warrant a bit more attention beyond special-interest legal publications?



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