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Donor’s Give Big for Obama’s Inauguration

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Authored by Jon Mercer in Politics
Published on 01-06-2009

Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration is at hand and the festivities will likely cost more than $40 million. The event will be funded totally by donations, and officials say that the bash will be open to more people than ever before in history.

It is estimated that three to five million people will squeeze into the area around the Capitol and the National Mall for the January 20 swearing-in ceremony. Those making large donations will be privy to upfront seating and a black-tie dinner with Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. The rest…will have to contend with traffic jams, cold weather, packed subway cars, and long walks from distant staging areas.

Collecting the donations for such a lavish event has proven to be especially difficult this year. Many potential givers are having “donor fatigue” after such a long and costly campaign. The sluggish economy is also a factor. Obama has placed high ethical standards on the donation committee, which will to accept no donations above $50,000 per individual, or donations from corporations, unions or political action committees.

The demand for VIP treatment has been so great that the inauguration committee has been faced with many special challenges for the event. In fact, some donors expecting to get special treatment may be disappointed because with such tight restrictions on donations there has been a need for more donors than ever, making it nearly impossible for everyone to receive special VIP treatment.

This may be particularly frustrating for fundraisers and event planners of the gala inauguration, as many have no idea what the donors will receive for their donations. One fundraiser said that “with the amount of donors that we have to deal with, it will be virtually impossible for every one of them to get an audience with the President or Vice President at the events”.

“We have the broadest inaugural fundraising restrictions in history,” said Linda Douglas, chief spokeswoman for Obama’s inaugural committee. The inauguration budget four years ago was about the same as Obama’s but the organizers for President Bush’s event took contributions of up to $250,000 as well as accepting money from both political action committees (PACs) and corporations.

To make this the most open and accessible inauguration ever, it is necessary to raise millions of dollars from many different donors. VIP events and jumbo television screens will be used to accommodate the large numbers expected to turn out for the historic event.

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