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In reversal, President Obama to accept corporate donations to help fund inauguration

WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s inaugural committee has decided to accept unlimited corporate donations to help fund the event, reversing a decision from four years ago and drawing criticism for a president who has vowed to change the culture of Washington and limit the influence of outside money.

President Obama four years ago barred corporate funding for his inauguration, and he limited per-person donations to $50,000.

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At the time, Obama’s team said they would be putting on “an inauguration that will underscore their commitment to change business as usual in Washington and ensure that as many Americans as possible, both inside and outside Washington, will be able to come together.”

The decision to accept unlimited corporate donations, first reported by Politico, comes from a newly-formed committee that has several members with deep Massachusetts ties.

Steve Kerrigan – who grew up in Lancaster and oversaw this year’s Democratic National Convention – is the chief executive officer of the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Stephanie Cutter, born in Taunton and raised in Raynham, is chairwoman of the board of directors. Jen O’Malley Dillon, who grew up in Franklin and went to Tufts, is overseeing the National Day of Service. Rufus Gifford, a Manchester-by-the-Sea native, is overseeing the finance portion.

While controversial, the decision to accept unlimited corporate donations could enable the inaugural committee to raise money quickly in the coming weeks.

“Our goal is to make sure that we will meet the fundraising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history,” spokeswoman Addie Whisenant said in a statement. “To ensure continued transparency, all names of donors will be posted to a regularly updated website.”

The committee is still barring lobbyists and political action committees from donating. They are establishing a system for vetting such donations, and won’t accept donations from corporations that accepted stimulus funding and haven’t paid the money back, for example.

The 57th inaugural will get underway on Saturday, Jan. 19, with a National Day of Service in which President Obama and his cabinet will participate in service projects in the Washington area.

Since Jan. 20 – the day the 20th amendment of the Constitution says a president’s term begins – is a Sunday, Obama will be sworn in during a small private service.

The next day there will be a public swearing in, the inaugural address, a parade, and a series of official Inaugural balls.

Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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