Obama Inauguration's Big Donor Packages Previewed
The biggest donors to President Barack Obama's second inauguration have been notified on what benefits will be available to them during that day's festivities.
Corporations and other organizations that donate in the highest bracket - $1 million - will have access to a children's concert, "benefactors reception," and four tickets to the official inaugural ball, among other perks. The bonuses were outlined in a solicitation from the Presidential Inaugural Committee to potential donors, and provided to the New York Times by an Obama fundraiser.
Private individuals who contribute the legal maximum of $250,000 will be given the same offerings as the million dollar donation from an "institution." Institutions can include corporations, unions, charities, and other organizations.
The benefits are separated into four individual "packages," each corresponding to the level of donation. Each is named after a former president: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison; a copy of the solicitation can be found here.
As reported by ABC News on Friday, the inaugural committee has reversed a voluntary ban on the donor money, imposed by Obama on the inauguration four years ago and during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
The decision on inauguration funding appears to be influenced by financial challenges left over from this election season's historic campaign spending. According to the Federal Election Commission, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney each raised more than $1 billion. To contrast, Obama's 2009 inaugural cost $47 million.
Taxpayers pay for the "official" events of any presidential inauguration: the actual swearing-in on Capitol Hill and inaugural luncheon. But all other events, including balls and the parade itself, must be funded by the president-elect and private donations.
This kind of financing is not new in Washington. President George W. Bush's 2005 inaugural, for example, had similar arrangements for donors including Time Warner, Wachovia, Home Depot, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. and Pfizer Inc., at $250,000 each. But this year's reversal is another departure from the pledges then-candidate Obama made during the 2008 election to keep certain kinds of political fundraising away from the Oval Office.
During his reelection Obama dropped long-standing opposition to Super PAC's in the face of the most expensive election in U.S. history. And previously in the 2008 campaign he broke a pledge to use public financing for the general election, again citing costs.
Committee officials say they will thoroughly vet any contributions and deny those from lobbyists, but some government watchdog groups are assailing the decision regardless.
"The administration asks to be judged in comparison to Bush, saying their record speaks for itself," the Sunlight Foundation's John Wonderlich said of Obama's record on transparency. "At some point, though, it's time to judge Obama in his own words. Obama said unlimited donations sully our democracy, threaten public service, and weaken representation - and has now chosen to embrace them."