What Recession? The $170 Million Inauguration
Obama's Inauguration Has Been Financed Partially by Bailed-Out Wall Street Executives
By SCOTT MAYEROWITZ
ABC NEWS Business Unit
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 .
Employees at banks, brokerages and Wall Street firms donated $7 million Barack Obama's inauguration.
The actual swearing-in ceremony will cost $1.24 million, according to Carole Florman, spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.
It's the security, parties and countless Porta-a-Potty rentals that really run up the bill.
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.
"We have a budget of roughly $45 million, maybe a little bit more," said Linda Douglas, 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.
Douglas 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," Douglas 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."