Inauguration to Cost Millions But Total Price Tag Unclear

Moving budgets, wide geographic spread make costs hard to pin down.

January 18, 2013, 4:48 PM

Jan. 19, 2013 -- 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.

Where will that money go? All over the nation's capital city – from security to snow removal in a chilly year to porta-potty inspection to first aid tents.

"We ensure the safety of our visitors, and we protect the natural and cultural resources of the park lands that belong to the American public," Johnson said.

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This year they have more than 600 park employees and volunteers coming in for Inauguration Day.

The U.S. Secret Service is another important and costly piece of the puzzle.

For security reasons, the Secret Service, Metropolitan Police, DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services and other security groups do not divulge cost figures prior to Inauguration day.

But because Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano designated the 2013 Inauguration a National Special Security Event – in keeping with past inaugurations – the funding for the Secret Service comes from a special pot. The Secret Service has a budget of $19.307 million for all NSSEs for the fiscal year, according to the CRS report, so their costs will be a fraction of that amount.

Security for ticketed events like the Inaugural Balls comes out of the PIC's budget, because they are considered private events, according to the CRS report.

The report lists funding set aside for the District of Columbia to cover inauguration-related costs this year at $9.8 million. In 2009, the District was reimbursed more than $44 million, including a $9.54 million FEMA grant authorized by President Bush prior to the event, according to reports by the Executive Office of the Mayor and the National Capital Region.

That broke down to $24.25 million for the MPD, almost $5 million for the Department of Real Estate Services and $2.5 million for DC Fire and EMS.

FEMS Battalion Chief Brian Lee said his organization provides "emergency medical care, safety and security to the public and dignitaries" during inaugural events and that doing that requires extra personnel and equipment.

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On Inauguration Day, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority will be essential for those heading into the city for the ceremonies. They did not have cost estimates available at the time of publishing.

During the 2009 Inauguration Day, Metro set the all-time record for most ridership – providing service for more than 1.54 million trips that day.

One exorbitant cost has already drawn attention in the District; the mayor's viewing stand, from which D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray will watch the Inaugural Parade, cost $342,000 to build. The banner above it reads, "A More Perfect Union Must Include Full Democracy in DC."

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