Michelle and Barack Obama greet attendees at the Inaugural Ball. Southern Company helped fund the event and is now up for a loan from the administration. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster.)
President Obama’s inaugural committee struggled to raise money for the festivities earlier this year—perhaps that’s normal for the second time around, especially when the first inaugural was so hyped and so historic. The sluggish fundraising came even though the committee allowed corporate contributions, unlike the first inauguraiton, and also made a major retreat on donor transparency: the inaugural committee released only the donor name, and not his or her employer, city, state and amount donated. (The Center for Responsive politics has still only matched 60 percent of the names released by the committee to an employer, and it has no idea how much the person donated.)
But as the inaugural approached, two major corporations stepped up to the plate. The week of the ceremony, the inaugural committee disclosed donations from Southern Company, one of the country’s largest utilities, and United Therapeutics, a $1.5 billion pharmaceutical company.
The committee didn’t disclose how much money was given, but a Southern Company spokesman told the Sunlight Foundation shortly thereafter that the donation was for $100,000. The utility normally backs Republican candidates—it gave 73 percent of its 2012 money to the GOP—but was now apparently trying to make amends with the winner.
That makes sense, because Southern Company has substantial business before the administration. As the operator of some of the country’s dirtiest coal plants, it has serious interest in any new EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. And it has doggedly been trying to win federal approval for an $8.3 billion loan guarantee for two new nuclear plants in Georgia.
Lo and behold, earlier this week—just one month after the inauguration—this happened:
Southern Co. expects to reach a final agreement with the Obama administration on a loan guarantee for its new nuclear-power plant by the middle of the year, a senior company executive said Thursday in the latest positive sign for the proposed $8.33 billion deal.
Joseph “Buzz” Miller, Southern’s executive vice president for new nuclear development, said “there has been movement” in negotiations with the Department of Energy, and the company is “newly optimistic that sometime middle-year, that we can close on the loan guarantee.”