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14 Give Inaugural Planners $250,000

Oil, GOP Figures Back Costly Event

By Manny Fernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 19, 2004; Page C01

More than a dozen wealthy Bush supporters -- oil executives, corporate leaders, Texas Republicans -- have donated $250,000 each to help pay for the president's second inauguration, which is shaping up as one of the most expensive.

According to a list of major donors on the Presidential Inaugural Committee's Web site, 14 companies and individuals each have given $250,000, and 10 have contributed $100,000. The list, which includes all donations made as of Thursday, also shows a contribution of $25,000 and another of $50,000.

Richard Kinder is member of inaugural panel finance group.

The $250,000 donors include former Enron president Richard D. Kinder, Dell Computer founder Michael S. Dell and Texas oilman and corporate takeover specialist T. Boone Pickens.

Also on the $250,000 list are ExxonMobil Corp.; Sallie Mae Inc., a Reston-based company that annually provides billions of dollars in student loans; United Technologies Corp., a unit of which manufactures Army Black Hawk helicopters; the utility Southern Co.; and Stephens Group Inc., a Little Rock venture capital company.

"We've seen a lot of enthusiasm from people wanting to help make the 55th inaugural a success," said Tracey Schmitt, spokeswoman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, which coordinates most inaugural activities. "People understand that the inauguration of our president is a great tradition, a tradition that transcends partisan politics."

Schmitt said the donations help pay for the venues, vendors, parade-route bleachers, entertainment and other costs associated with staging the Jan. 20 inauguration, as well as lead-up events beginning Jan. 18.

The inauguration is estimated to cost $30 million to $40 million, which private donations will cover. The estimate includes security costs not covered by the federal and local government. Security is expected to be tight for the first inauguration since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

There are two categories of major donors. Sponsors contribute $100,000, and underwriters donate $250,000. Schmitt said that the committee was pleased with the number of donations and that more are expected to come in over the next several weeks.

Donors who give $250,000 -- the highest amount allowed -- will have access to eight of the nine planned inaugural balls. The one inaccessible ball is the Commander-in-Chief Ball at the National Building Museum to honor troops who have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq or who are about to be deployed.

The cost of the inauguration four years ago was about $40 million. President Bill Clinton's 1997 inauguration cost $29.6 million.

Among the $100,000 donors for Bush's first inauguration were such major corporations as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch and General Electric. The Washington Post Co. gave $100,000.

This time, some of Bush's friends are among top-dollar donors. Kinder is a member of the inaugural committee's finance group. His wife, Nancy G. Kinder, was a "Ranger" in Bush's reelection campaign, meaning she raised at least $200,000.

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