By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The Presidential Inaugural Committee has raised almost $10 million so far to cover the costs of putting on a four-day fete that may draw the biggest crowd ever for an inauguration, casting the fundraising as ground-breaking in its restrictions and transparency.
President Bush's last inaugural committee raised a record $42.8 million for a three-day celebration that included fireworks and nine inaugural balls. By mid-January 2005, Bush's committee had raised $18 million among corporations, trade associations and company executives.
By contrast, President-elect Barack Obama's committee has limited contributions, following the example of his campaign, banning contributions from corporations, political action committees, registered lobbyists, foreigners and registered foreign agents.
Individuals are also limited to giving $50,000, considerably less than the $250,000 corporate and individual donations.
Bundlers, individual donors who gather contributions on behalf of the committee, will be limited to $300,000 donations and will be identified on the PIC's Web site.
"From the beginning, we've said we're going to plan the most open and accessible inauguration in history, and that includes using 21st-century technology to give the American people access to information about donors to our committee," co-chair Penny Pritzker said in a statement.The public will be able to fully track donations from those giving $200 or more toward the Jan. 18-21 event, which will be highlighted by the Jan. 20 swearing-in.
The committee unveiled a new page yesterday on its Web site, http://www.pic2009.org/donors, that shows every such donation within 48 hours of receipt. The list can be sorted by donation amount, and the contributor's name, home town and employer. The money will go toward everything from JumboTrons on the Mall to staging 10 inaugural balls.
Inauguration organizers expect Obama's swearing-in to draw more the 1.2 million at Lyndon B. Johnson's inauguration.
The size probably will swell Obama's budget, but Kevin Griffis, a PIC spokesman, said the committee has no target fundraising goal. "We don't have a budget number yet," he said. "Obviously, we expect a large crowd."
In a related development, legislation backed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to ban resale of inauguration tickets died last night in the Senate. She became concerned by reports that tickets were being offered at high prices online. The tickets are distributed free by congressional offices.
Six pages of donors available yesterday on the inaugural committee Web site showed 169 individuals donating $50,000 each, including hedge fund billionaire George Soros, a well-known supporter of liberal causes, three of his children and a daughter-in-law.
So far, contributions have come from 28 states, with California demonstrating a strong star presence. The celebrity contingent includes actors Sharon Stone, Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx, Motown founder Berry Gordy and producers Robert Zemeckis and James Lassiter. They each gave $50,000.
Local power brokers are also on the list. District real estate developer Herb Miller contributed $25,000, and Maryland real estate developer Morton Funger and Virginian Anthony Welters, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, each gave $50,000.
For $50,000, contributors receive four tickets to official inaugural events and two tickets to other events hosted by the inaugural finance committee, Griffis said.He said he was unsure what smaller contributors would get.
Tony DeCrappeo, a D.C. resident and president of the Council on Governmental Relations, was one of two people listed as giving $200 to the committee yesterday.
He said he did not expect a ball ticket. But DeCrappeo said he was a strong Obama supporter who wants the inauguration to go well and " thought other people besides the big donors should give."
Staff writers David Nakamura and Martin Weil contributed to this report.