Georgians ponied up at least $2.39 million for President Donald Trump’s inaugural festivities in January.
More than two dozen companies and individuals from the state helped Trump raise $107 million for 20 inaugural events, shattering the fundraising record set by President Barack Obama in 2009, according to new federal filings released this week.
Georgia contributions ranged from the small - including $200 from a Doraville accountant - to $1 million from title-pawn magnate Rod Aycox and his wife Leslie.
Many of the state's Fortune 500 companies also pitched in, sending hundreds of thousands of dollars for six days of celebrations surrounding the Jan. 20 inauguration, which included a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial and three inaugural balls.
The Sandy Springs-based UPS gave $250,000. Coca-Cola earmarked $300,000, while Aflac and Southern Company Services each ponied up $100,000.
Most giant corporations tend to steer clear of partisan politics so they don’t alienate their customers, but inaugurations are typically viewed in a different light.
“Since the 1890s, we have had a tradition of supporting inauguration events for U.S. presidents from both parties and we continued that support this year,” a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our donations were in line with the support provided to the 2013 inauguration.”
Such contributions raise the ire of good-government activists, who worry about corporate cronyism when big donors with business in Washington get to so openly hobnob with incoming federal officials.
“The Trump administration did not wait to take office before embracing and deepening the pay-to-play, corrupting culture against which candidate Trump ran,” Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen.
As is customary, the public picked up the tab for the event’s security and the swearing-in ceremony, but Trump’s inaugural team set out to raise $75 million in private money for the inaugural parties and galas. It gave corporations and wealthy supporters incentives to donate by offering them benefits, such as a private luncheon with Trump’s top advisers and Cabinet appointees.
“The amount of funds raised for the inaugural celebration allowed the President to give the American people, those both at home and visiting Washington, a chance to experience the incredible moment in our democracy where we witness the peaceful transition of power, a cornerstone of American democracy,” Tom Barrack, the chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, said in a statement.
Barrack said the group will donate any remaining money to charity, but he didn’t know yet exactly how much was left over.
By comparison, Obama’s then-record-setting haul in 2009 was $53 million. He had banned donations from corporations and political action committees at the time, but changed his mind for his second inauguration four years later.
Georgia corporations that donated to Obama’s inaugural in 2013 included Coca-Cola, which contributed $430,000; Southern Co., which chipped in $100,000; and Aflac, which gave $50,000.
UPS made a splash last summer when it decided not to sponsor the Republican National Convention, as it did in the previous election cycle. A spokeswoman for the shipping behemoth said inaugurations are different and that the company has contributed money and services for “a number of past administrations.”
“The inauguration of a president of the United States is an occasion of global proportion and celebrates the democratic process that America represents,” the UPS spokeswoman said.
Tamar Hallerman is an award-winning senior reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She's the paper's lead reporter covering the Fulton County special grand jury investigation of whether former President Donald Trump or his allies criminally interfered in Georgia's 2020 elections.