Obama Caps Inaugural Contributions

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has named a team of high-profile executives and fundraisers to oversee his inauguration and imposed limits on who can contribute to it and how much they can give.

The group leading the Jan. 20 celebrations includes Chicago Bears part-owner Patrick Ryan, former Commerce secretary William Daley, and Penny Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago businesswoman who helped Obama raise record sums as his campaign's finance chairwoman.

No budget has been set. Fundraising for President Bush's inauguration in 2004 surpassed $42 million, federal records show.

While presidential candidates can collect no more than $2,300 in campaign contributions from individuals per primary and general election, federal law sets no limits on inaugural fundraising.

Obama, who vowed during the campaign that special interests would not yield undue influence in his White House, is limiting inaugural contributions to $50,000 each and will not accept money from corporations, unions, political action committees, or federal lobbyists, inaugural spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Individuals who raise money on behalf of the inaugural committee cannot collect more than $300,000 each, he said. Obama, however, still will accept donations from corporate executives, wealthy individuals and former federal lobbyists.

"While this isn't a perfect solution, it's a clear indication that he's taking serious steps to change business as usual in Washington," Earnest said.

Sheila Krumholz of the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics said Obama's move marks the tightest restrictions on inaugural giving. But wealthy donors still can try to use their contributions to gain access to the president-elect, she added. "If you have the means, you can essentially buy elite status … you may even get prime seats for the parade and (inaugural) ball tickets in the process."

Earnest said big donors will not have an inside track in the new administration. The committee also plans a grass-roots fundraising campaign to collect money from a broad cross-section of Americans, he said.

Other members of the inaugural team: Obama fundraiser John Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, and Julianna Smoot, who served as Obama's national finance director.

The federal government provides $1.2 million in public funds to pay for the swearing-in and a luncheon. Private donations pay for most other activities — from the splashy Inaugural Balls to installing jumbo television screens on the National Mall, where spillover crowds will watch the ceremony.

Bush imposed a $250,000 cap on inaugural donations in 2004 but did not bar corporate contributions.

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