What Recession? The $170 Million Inauguration
Obama's inauguration financed in part by bailed-out Wall Street executives.
Jan. 19, 2009— -- The country is in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, which isn't stopping rich donors and the government from spending $170 million, or more, on the inauguration of Barack Obama .
The actual swearing-in ceremony will cost $1.24 million, according to Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
The federal government estimates that it will spend roughly $49 million on the inaugural weekend. Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland have requested another $75 million from the federal government to help pay for their share of police, fire and medical services.
And then there is the party bill.
"We have a budget of roughly $45 million, maybe a little bit more," said Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for the inaugural committee.
That's more than the $42.3 million in private funds spent by President Bush's committee in 2005 or the $33 million spent for Bill Clinton's first inaugural in 1993.
Douglass said that this will be the "most open and accessible inauguration in history," with members of the general public able to participate on a greater scale than ever before.
"The money is going toward providing events which we hope are going to connect people, make them feel like we are all in this together and reinforce the notion that when we pull together, we're stronger," Douglass said. "And we need to pull together to face the challenges that are before us today."
Among the expenses: a Bruce Springsteen concert, the parade, large-screen TV rentals for all-free viewing on the national Mall, $700,000 to the Smithsonian Institution to stay open and, of course, the balls, including three that are being pitched as free or low cost for the public.
But there are plenty of rich donors willing to pick up the tab.
"They are not the $20 and $50 donors who helped propel Obama through Election Day," said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics. "These are people giving mostly $50,000 apiece. They tend to be corporate executives, celebrities, the elite of the elite."