The selling of an inauguration: Prices run from $5 to $1 million

The taxpayers will pick up the tab -- as they do every four years -- for the official swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, a luncheon with Congress and extra security. The rest comes from contributions.
Jan 16, 2013


For $100,000, donors will receive a package of tickets that include a candlelight reception at the posh National Building Museum.

For $250,000, there's a star-studded children's concert.

And for $1 million, there are reserved seats for a parade.

The gift list at Neiman Marcus? Hardly. It's the price list for some of the star-studded events of the 57th inauguration celebration, five days of brunches and balls, concerts and receptions that will kick off Thursday.

It's all built around the inauguration of President Barack Obama for a second term next Monday.

The taxpayers will pick up the tab -- as they do every four years -- for the official swearing-in ceremony on the steps of the Capitol, a luncheon with Congress and extra security.

The rest comes from contributions. Obama supporters -- individuals and corporations -- are helping to raise the millions of dollars, sometimes in ways that alarm government-watchdog groups.

It's not all for and by the wealthy. Donations are being supplemented by sales of souvenirs: $5 buttons, $150 cufflinks. But they also include $7,500 medallion sets featuring the likenesses of Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And the nearly 1,000 donors identified so far include well-connected companies and individuals who have done business with the Obama administration, attended White House functions or backed the president in his re-election bid last year, according to an incomplete list of contributors released by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

Donors include Centene Corp., a health care company that will benefit from the Affordable Care Act; Financial Innovations, a company that sold promotional merchandise to the campaign; and Irwin Jacobs, a founder of tech giant Qualcomm, who gave millions of dollars to an independent group that supported Obama last year.

"The American people have a right to expect something other than an inauguration brought to them by AT&T," said Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, which had called on Obama to refuse corporate funding for the inauguration. "Every corporation's donations create a conflict of interest, because they all have business before the government in one way or the other."

The Presidential Inaugural Committee spent $53 million for the 2009 festivities, when a record 1.8 million people filled the National Mall to see the nation's first black president take the oath of office. Fewer than half that are expected for a scaled-down celebration this year, which will bring down the cost, though organizers have released no estimate.

Four years ago, Obama refused to take money from corporations and he limited contributions to $50,000, pledging to change business as usual in Washington.

This year, he scrapped the limits on companies and dollars, though he still is declining money from lobbyists, political action committees, foreign corporations and entities that benefited from government bailouts. There also won't be any sponsorships, so don't expect to see signs for the AT&T parade or Microsoft brunch.

Donations of $10,000 to $1 million are being rewarded with packages named after the founding fathers -- Madison, Jefferson, Adams and Washington -- that include access to exclusive events, some with the president and first lady Michelle Obama. The $1 million package surpasses individual contributions collected by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who raised $30 million to $42 million for each of their inaugurations.

"Our goal is to make sure that we will meet the fundraising requirements for this civic event after the most expensive presidential campaign in history," according to a statement from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

That still disappointed government-watchdog groups, some of which had lobbied Obama to refuse corporate donations. They accused him of abandoning his effort to curb the role of money in politics after little success in his first four years.


The committee's decision to accept all donations came after an election between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in which a record $2 billion was collected, more than half from outside groups funded in part by millionaires and billionaires, organizations that Obama had once strongly opposed.

"It has always been more appearance than reality," said Robert Kelner, the chairman of Covington and Burling's Election and Political Law group, which represents the Republican Party, among other clients. "They realize the idealism didn't work well and are adjusting to financial reality."

In 2009, Obama disclosed names, employers and states of residence for each donor, along with the amounts of contribution. This year, he's releasing the names with no further identifying information.

So far, the committee has released two batches totaling just 992 names of people who had donated more than $200, though the list is probably much larger. Four years ago, nearly 21,000 donations were made. A third list of names is expected to be released this week.

Committee officials declined to say why the policy had changed, even while its website continues to tout the group's "commitment to transparency."

"It's mysterious to me," said Kathy Kiely, the managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation, which promotes transparency in government. "I just think for a president that really made it an issue -- boasted about his transparency -- for him to walk back, it's a puzzling signal."

A final list of donors won't be available until three months after the inauguration, when the committee is required to report them to the Federal Election Commission. The committee isn't required, however, to report how the money was spent, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a public-interest law firm in Washington.

Officials at the Sunlight Foundation suspect that Obama may be raising more money than is needed for the inauguration. Leftovers can be used for a variety of other purposes, including to fund Obama's presidential library, which will house his papers after he leaves the White House. The cost could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.


By Anita Kumar - McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

(c)2013 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at

Distributed by MCT Information Services



Personally, I'd rather buy tickets to his impeachment. How do I make a donation $ toward that?

TheGravyWhisperer send it to me ...why me? 'cause I thought of it first...


Impeachment and removal from Office of Obama would leave Biden as President. I don't think ANYONE wants that.

jack langhals

That is Bozo's best protection !


With what Obama is up to now he may get donations delivered at a high velocity.
It is looking more and more like he is trying to become the first American Dictator


Congratulations , Propman . That comment probably put you on the Secret Services radar for threatening a president . The men in black will be watching you and yours ; )))


I am beginning to wonder if they may give him that type of donation before he proclaims himself Dictator.

Tired Of Governmental Corruption's picture
Tired Of Govern...

Adolf Obama

Tired Of Governmental Corruption's picture
Tired Of Govern...

My pic changes with each post. No clue who this guy is. Good Ole Reflector, no clue


I wouldn't walk across the street to view this coronation.

Instead of Herr Hitler, a better comparison for Mr. Obama might be Hugo Chavez - adored by the masses but an economic incompetent.


Jeep moving production to China....but wait, didn't Romney call that and the liberals jump his butt. Jobs keep going out, debt keep going up, money keeps being printed.


@ arnmcrmn:

Plus, the UAW retiree VEBA that owns Chrysler interest wants to float an IPO. (Read: Needs money due to financial problems.)

Also, Fiat is still looking for a "third" partner in the auto business. Maybe the hunting is better in China?

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

What Democrats have deemed the "Lie of the Year" has turned out to be true.
The good news in all of this is cars made in China won't be made by UAW thugs.


Still trying to push this story ? Nothing has changed about it . They are building jeeps in China for Chinese . Not to sell here . Maybe you missed that part during the election , which is also done and over-with .


@ Bluto:

And let's conveniently forget that it's an "Eyetalian" co. :)

Tell Mr. Obama to tell 'em to repatriate their profits so he can tax 'em!

Cliff Cannon

arnmcrmn: I agree with you. So please forgive my nitpickness,with your post. However,being a literary purist. I have this one question about your composition :Do you think after " jobs keep going out,debt keeps piling up,money keeps being printed " that your idea would be better served had you written " money keeps being printed........

My point. " ......" says it don't end. After all isn't that the reality of " debt keeps piling up,money keeps being printed " ?

Either way ,thanks for the thought provoking comment

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

H.J. Res 15 Would Remove Presidential Term Limits. If H.J. Res 15 passes, Obama will LEGALLY be able to be our dictator for the remainder of his life. FREE KOOL-AID FOR LIFE.

Brock Lee



Perhaps Bluto is avoiding the obvious. The Detroit Free Press announced the china plant production will be exactly like Toledo's with the Toledo plant being the sole manufacturer of the Grand Cherokee! Down the road when China gets into full production of the Jeeps with good quality what will stop them from the importation of the Chinese Jeep overhere. All that stands in the way would be the cost, if the cost is lower, then poof there goes Toledo jobs. Having been to Beijing and looking at all the Maserattis and Bentleys, I somehow don't see the Jeep Compass as a leading seller.


Blah , blah , blah . Speculation isn't reality .