Canton Repository

January 15, 2005

Timken the belle of Ohioans’ Bush ball

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — The Timken Co., a longtime supporter of the GOP, has become one of the major underwriters of President Bush’s second inauguration next week.

In addition to contributing the maximum $250,000 to the inauguration, the Fortune 500 company has kicked in up to $100,000 to help pay for an Ohio Republican gala the night before Bush takes the oath of office.

Critics point to the company’s largesse as another example of corporate America’s efforts to buy influence in Washington.

Officials at the Canton-based bearing and steel manufacturer deny the charge, insisting the company’s involvement is aimed at promoting government policies they believe are beneficial to the economy.

Timken has hosted Republican presidents in the past, including Bush, who made a pitch for his tax-cut plan at a company research facility in April 2003.

Timken’s $250,000 gift is among more than $25 million that has been donated to the inauguration by 195 well-heeled individuals and companies across the nation.

Just two other companies and one individual from Ohio gave as much as Timken did.

American Financial Group in Cincinnati donated $250,000, as did its CEO, Carl H. Lindner. Cinergy Corp. in Cincinnati also contributed a quarter-million dollars.

Timken made its donation within the last week.

The inauguration Thursday, and related events beginning Tuesday, are expected to draw up to 250,000 visitors, including at least 2,000 from Ohio.

“Timken is an example of a company whose donations have gone heavily Republican, and here they are also supporting the inauguration,” said Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

“It’s another avenue by which these companies and individuals and interests make sure that they get access to the administration, to members of Congress,” he added. “It’s turned the inauguration into another lobbying opportunity, another opportunity for companies to pave the way for issues that are important to them.”

Givers of $250,000, such as Timken, get 80 tickets to 10 events during the four-day celebration. Members of Congress are present at many of these events, giving others who attend a valuable lobbying opportunity, according to Noble.

Timken describes its support for the inauguration as a way to support administration policies and raise the company profile.

“We believe this is the right person (Bush) to continue to foster the policies that will enable the economy to continue to grow, which we believe is beneficial to business,” Timken spokesman Jason Saragian said. “The other thing it does is it also gains visibility, along with other major companies in Washington — a little bit of public relations, if you will.”

Saragian said Bush’s tax cuts have helped Timken. The company also backs the president’s efforts to get an energy bill passed, enact lawsuit reform and make changes in environmental laws, he said.

In 2002, the company supported tariffs that Bush imposed on foreign steel. Company officials said the fees had only a marginal benefit for the firm.

Timken’s $250,000 donation places the company among the 52 most generous contributors to the inauguration so far. The inaugural committee has limited donations to $250,000, up from the $100,000 maximum when Bush took the oath of office in 2001.

Four years ago, Timken contributed $100,000 to the inauguration in a bundled package including $50,000 from the company, $25,000 from Timken Chairman W.R. “Tim” Timken Jr., and $25,000 from Timken’s mother, Mary J. Timken, who died last year.

Company Chairman Timken, who also serves as chairman of the federal Securities Investor Protection Corp. under appointment from Bush, has not donated to the inauguration this year. Timken was designated a Republican “Ranger” last year for raising $200,000 for Bush.

Timken Co. also has joined with two dozen other firms to sponsor and pay for the Ohio Republicans’ “Wright Stuff Inaugural Gala,” which will be held at the National Air & Space Museum on Wednesday night.

Neither the company nor the Ohio Republican Party would disclose how much each company is paying toward the $400,000 cost of the party. In an invitation to the event, Timken has top billing. The company’s name is in prominent bold face above other corporate sponsors.

Saragian said Timken is an “upper tier” sponsor, suggesting its contribution is near the higher end of the scale.

Inaugurations offer individuals and companies a rare opportunity to share their wealth with political interests in larger quantities than campaign finance laws permit.

While federal law bars corporations from making donations to political parties or candidates, companies can give as much to an inaugural committee as it is willing to accept.

Corporations also are allowed to form political action committees, which may give candidates up to $5,000 per election and give political parties up to $15,000 a year.

As with companies, there is no legal limit to what individuals can contribute to inaugurations.

Otherwise, the law limits individuals to giving candidates up to $2,000 per election and giving national parties up to $25,000 per year.