Wall Street ponies up for Obama inauguration
It’s been a brutal year for Wall Street, but the high rollers apparently still love a big, expensive party.
People who work in the finance industry have given at least $4.8 million to underwrite Barack Obama’s inauguration party, more than any other business sector, according to an analysis by the watchdog Center for Responsive Politics.
Obama’s team appears to have reached the $40 million goal it set to pay for the festivities. Roughly $6.8 million has come from those giving less than $200, according to the committee. But large donors have given at least $35 million.
While U.S. citizens can only give a maximum of $4,600 to help a candidate win office, there’s no legal limit to contributions for inaugural parties.
Obama’s Presidential Inaugural Committee has set a donor limit of $50,000, and has placed the names of large donors online in what the committee says is an unprecedented display of transparency.
Among those who gave the maximum: actresses Sharon Stone and Halle Barry (pictured); Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda; Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife; filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas; Motown founder Berry Gordy and music mogul Antonio “LA” Reid.
Financier George Soros, a prominent underwriter of liberal causes, and extended family contributed at least $250,000.
For some, $50,000 isn’t enough. At least 32 donors have “bundled” $300,000 from their friends and associates — the maximum allowed by the committee.
Among that select group is Citicorp executive Louis Susman, whose company has taken at least $45 billion in government bailout money.
“If history is any guide, these wealthy individuals, as well as the corporations and industries they represent, may more than recoup their investment in Obama through presidential appointments, favorable legislation and government contracts,” said Shelia Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Inauguration committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass said large donors will not have undue influence in the Obama administration.
“He’s never given anyone a reason to believe that they will have any special consideration just because they’ve contributed,” Douglass said. Just as small donors and volunteers played a significant role in the campaign, regular Americans will continue to have input in the administration, she said.
The money raised by the committee, in chunks smaller than the $200,000 maximum set by President Bush’s inaugural committee, will enable the committee to provide free concerts and parties for the record crowds expected for the inauguration, Douglass said.
“What these donors are supporting is a very vigorous effort to make sure that all Americans feel connected to these events,” she said.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Chip East (Halle Berry in New York, Sept. 7)
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