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Sheldon Adelson, corporate interests boost Trump inaugural fundraising to record levels

President Trump delivers his inaugural address at the U.S. Capitol. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

Casino magnate and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson donated $5 million to President Trump's inaugural festivities, as corporate interests and lobbyists lifted the inaugural committee's fundraising to record levels.

In all, more than 45 individuals and companies donated at least $1 million each to the effort as Trump broke with the practice of most recent inaugural committees and placed no limits on corporate or individual donors. Major donors included Robert Mercer, the hedge fund manager who has been one of Trump's biggest donors, Dow Chemical, and Phillip Ruffin, a longtime Trump friend and business partner. Several owners of National Football League teams gave $1 million, including Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Los Angeles Rams owner Stanley Kroenke, Houston Texans owner Robert McNair and a Trump friend who owns the New England Patriots, Robert K. Kraft, whose team is visiting the White House on Wednesday.

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Trump's inaugural committee, which raised money to fund a concert and other celebrations surrounding his inauguration in January, announced Tuesday that it has raised $107 million, doubling a previous record set by President Barack Obama in 2009. A 510-page filing with the Federal Election Commission made public Wednesday provided details of donations, though it provided no information about how the committee spent its money, including how much money remained after the festivities. The committee has said it would donate leftover funds to charities but has not identified which charities will receive money or how much.

But the new filing provides a window into the flood of support from wealthy individuals and major corporations that helped support the event, despite Trump's campaign promises to “drain the swamp” and limit the role of money in Washington. Presidential inaugural committees have traditionally been a way for major donors to express their support for a new administration — and for donors who backed a president's rivals during the campaign to make amends.

The filing showed that more than 1,500 people and companies gave money to the effort. But more than two-thirds of the money raised came from big-dollar donors who contributed at least $500,000.

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Other corporate donors that gave $1 million included AT&T, Bank of America, Pfizer and Boeing. Boeing's donations came after Trump took a shot at the company on Twitter in early December, threatening to cancel a contract to build new presidential jets. Since then, the company has built strong ties to the Trump White House, and Trump has visited a Boeing facility. In a statement, a company spokesman noted that the $1 million contribution matched one given to support Obama's inaugural committee in 2013, and that the company had given to many inaugural committees before then.

Another $1 million came from Marlene Ricketts, a member of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs. Trump had nominated her son Todd Ricketts to be deputy commerce secretary, but the Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday that he was withdrawing from consideration from the post after being unable to disentangle himself from his financial holdings.

During his daily briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether he was concerned about any real or perceived conflicts, given that many inaugural donors will be affected by actions taken by the Trump administration.

“No,” Spicer responded, saying the situation is similar to that posed by campaign donations.

“There's disclosure on this for a reason, so you know what's happening,” Spicer said.

He added that helping fund inaugurals is “a time-honored tradition,” often done in a “bipartisan” fashion.
The committee also pocketed money from one of Silicon Valley's most controversial stars. Palmer Luckey, the 24-year-old co-founder of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality system, donated $100,000 on Jan. 4 through a shell company, Wings of Time, which itself was owned by another shell company named Fiendlord's Keep that is wholly owned by Luckey, California business records show.

Known for his breakout technology and a much-ridiculed 2015 Time magazine cover, Luckey became the face of virtual reality when Facebook bought Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion. Forbes last year called Luckey, a college dropout, one of America's richest entrepreneurs under 40, estimating his net worth at $730 million.

But Luckey was heavily criticized last year after he donated $10,000 to a pro-Trump Internet group called Nimble America, which was infamous for its off-color memes about Hillary Clinton, including a Pennsylvania highway billboard that called her "too big to jail.” Trailed by the scandal and a series of separate lawsuits, Luckey left Facebook last month. Luckey declined to comment.

The committee had been chaired by longtime Trump friend Tom Barrack, with fundraising efforts led by vice chairmen Woody Johnson and Elliott Broidy.

Adelson is one of the most prolific donors in Republican politics. He endorsed Trump in May, and he and his wife, Miriam, contributed a total of more than $21.2 million to Trump's campaign effort, including contributions to Trump’s campaign, Republican committees and a pro-Trump super PAC, according to federal finance disclosures. Trump has lavished praised and personal attention on the casino owner ever since. He met with Adelson at Trump Tower in New York before taking office and then seated the couple in prime seats on the dais when he took the oath. The Adelsons also joined Trump at a lunch with congressional leaders at the U.S. Capitol and dined at the White House in February.

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Adelson is a major supporter of Israeli causes and has pushed for the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a Trump campaign promise that remains unfulfilled. When Sean Spicer incorrectly recounted the history of the Holocaust at a White House briefing last week, he called Adelson personally to apologize.

Steven Rich and Drew Harwell contributed to this report.