01/18/2013 12:22 pm ET Updated Mar 20, 2013

Obama inauguration sponsors spent millions influencing government

By Dave Levinthal

President Barack Obama has long vowed to "take on" federal lobbyists, swearing off their campaign cash, curtailing access to his administration, and lately, directing his Presidential Inaugural Committee to reject their donations.

"We've always relied on each other, not Washington lobbyists or corporate interests, to build our campaign," he wrote to supporters after launching his re-election campaign.

While Obama has banned donations to his second inaugural celebration from lobbyists, no such prohibition exists on donations from the corporations that employ them.

Donate they have: Obama's inaugural festivities Monday are bankrolled by several of the nation's most powerful corporate lobbying forces, which have collectively spent at least $158.6 million on lobbying since the president first took office, a Center for Public Integrity review of congressional disclosures indicates.

The ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, perhaps fittingly, falls squarely on the third anniversary of one of the most notable political influence developments in U.S. history -- the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision -- which Obama decried as a "huge victory" for special interests and their lobbyists and a "powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence."

Chief among corporate inaugural donors: AT&T Inc., Microsoft Corp., energy giant Southern Co., biotechnology firm Genentech and health plan manager Centene Corp. Together, more than 300 registered lobbyists worked on the five companies' behalf to influence legislation and government policy, according to their latest federal filings covering January through September.

Continue this story and read more investigations at The Center for Public Integrity