Inauguration to Cost Millions But Total Price Tag Unclear

PHOTO: US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama dance during the Youth Inaugural Ball at the Hilton Washington in Washington, DC, January 20, 2009.
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How much will all the inaugural events cost? It's hard to say.

While most events that occur in the capital have a hard-and-fast budget, the inauguration's many moving parts, safety concerns and large geographic reach make it hard to quantify – especially before the main event.

In 2009, ABC reported the total cost of Obama's first inauguration was $170 million. While incumbent presidents historically spend less on a second inauguration, it's unclear what the total bill will be this time around. Analysis of some of the known appropriations so far puts the total at $13.637 million, but it will no doubt be a much larger price tag when everything is accounted for.

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One of the main chunks missing from this year's tab is the budget for the Presidential Inaugural Committee – the group responsible for using donated money to put together this year's celebrations, including National Day of Service, the Kids' Inaugural Concert, the Parade and the Inaugural Balls.

In 2009, the PIC collected more than $53 million in donations, according to a report filed with the Federal Elections Commission 90 days after the inauguration.

While enthusiasm for the inauguration was running higher that year, it is possible the PIC will haul in more money this time around, as they have eliminated some of the self-imposed regulations on the kinds of donations they can accept. For his first inauguration, President Obama did not take money from corporations or gifts that exceeded $50,000.

In 2013, his committee did away with those rules. PIC spokesman Brent Colburn would not say why the change took place, insisting that each committee operates independently from the precedent set by the inaugurations before – even if staff like Colburn are repeats on the committee from 2009.

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The PIC also won't say how much they have already collected or even what their goal was. Colburn explained that these are "moving budgets," which won't stabilize until after the inauguration.

They have, however, released the names of donors on their website weekly. As of Friday afternoon, they were up to 993 donors.

Another leg of the costs is covered by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. They take care of the swearing-in ceremony and the Congressional luncheon. For those events they have a total budget of $1.237 million, down by about $163,000 from 2009. Whereas the PIC budget comes from donations, the American taxpayers foot the bill for the JCCIC.

Beyond those two inauguration-focused groups, there are a myriad of broader organizations that spend money on the inauguration as well.

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A Congressional Research Service report from December says the government spent $22 million reimbursing local and state governments and the National Park Service for their participation in the 2009 inauguration, but that figure is low. The D.C. government alone received twice that amount, according to the mayor's office. Officials from D.C., Maryland and Virginia estimated their total need to be $75 million.

NPS got an appropriation from Congress of $1.2 million so far this year, according to communications officer Carol Johnson, and another $1.4 million went to the U.S. Park Police.

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