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Time Warner Ponies Up $250,000; Washington Post $100,000

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WASHINGTON ( -- In a what has become a quadrennial custom, a newly elected president of the U.S. will be inaugurated Thursday amid celebrations largely funded by marketers,
Photo: AP
Fireworks burst over the White House during the Jan. 19 opening of several days of inaugural celebration.
media companies and other corporations that routinely lobby in high government offices.

Time Warner, Altria, Ford Motor Co. and AT&T are among the companies that gave $250,000 to the inaugural fund, while the Washington Post Co. and other companies gave $100,000 each.

Others in $250,000 club
Others that contributed $250,000 included Bristol-Myers Squibb, ChevronTexaco, Exxon Mobil, FedEx, Pfizer, Aflac, Home Depot and Bank of America. Those contributing $100,00 included Qualcomm, SBC Communications, Coca-Cola Co., and Microsof Corp.

The contribution doesn't buy signage, although the companies get listed on the inaugural program. It does get some tickets to inauguration-related events. Some of the companies said they combine those tickets with their own events to woo both lawmakers and their own clients or advertisers.

"We've done it for 12 years," said Patrick Butler, a spokesman for the Washington Post Co., which invites advertisers to Washington for the inaugural and has a number of related events, including a dinner tonight, a brunch Inauguration Day and a dinner at Chairman-CEO Donald E. Graham's house.

Mr. Butler said the contribution entitles the Post to 50 invites for inaugural balls.

'Culmination of electoral process'
Michael Moran, Washington public affairs director for Ford, said the company views the inaugural as the "culmination of the electoral process" and part of the "fabric of America."

He said Ford has contributed to three inaugurals and this year will hold its own reception at the Phillips Collection, where works by Renoir, Calder and Miro are being exhibited.

He declined to speculate why Ford is so involved compared to other automakers (General Motors Corp. gave $100,00) but said Ford "has a proactive approach" to Washington activities.

Dawn Schneider, director of corporate communications, for Altria Corporate Services, said the parent of Philip Morris and Kraft Foods has a "longstanding commitment and involvement in the political process."

'Historic part of the process'
"It makes sense in our minds given the breath and depth of our business issues," she said. "As the parent company to the world's largest food company and world's large cigarette maker, we view it as an historic part of the process we support."

Time Warner is hosting a reception tomorrow night at the National Gallery, and a spokeswoman said it historically supported inaugurals, both Democratic and Republican, "in celebration of the democratic process."

AT&T in a statement said it had "contributed to events and activities that honor the greatness of our country and the democratic process. The inaugural celebration is the pinnacle of that greatness and it's an honor for us participate."

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