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Selling the inaugural: For a mere $50K, a 4-day D.C. trip

Pete Yost
Selling the inaugural: For a mere $50K, a 4-day D.C. trip
The Danforth Museum of Art, located in Framingham Mass., is celebrating four African American artists with work spanning multiple eras of American art over 100 years.  Pictured is one of the pieces on display, “Jazz Stories: Mama Can Sing, Papa Can Blow #4: Nobody Will Ever Love You Like I Do, 2004,” by Faith Ringgold. (Photo: Danforth Museum of Art)

WASHINGTON — The inauguration committee of President-elect Barack Obama, who ran on a platform to change the way business is done in Washington, is selling four-day packages of four tickets to his historic swearing-in ceremony and parade plus some extras in exchange for $50,000.

The deal does represent a change. President George W. Bush charged $250,000, selling his supporters a much bigger menu of inaugural goodies that featured more tickets, more events and more contact with the president and vice president.

Last Friday, members of the Obama National Finance Committee were spreading the word about their package to friends and associates around the United States. The money the inaugural committee raises will help pay for the festivities.

“We’ve been waiting for this day for eight years,” crowed committee member Michael Caplin, when contacted by The Associated Press about the offer he was e-mailing to friends and associates.

The five-figure deals were being peddled at the same time a congressional proposal that would have banned the resale of inaugural tickets died in the Senate.

The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, was prepared to rush the bill through, but it was pulled at the last minute.

Feinstein had modified the legislation to allow for ticket sales by the presidential inaugural committee. However, technical issues remained that couldn’t be resolved in time to get the bill through both chambers of Congress before the end of the year, said Howard Gantman, staff director of the Senate Rules Committee, which Feinstein chairs.

Gantman said that the legislation will be reintroduced next year because of ticket-scalping over the Internet at astronomical prices and that Feinstein still hoped to see it enacted before the inauguration.

Obama’s inaugural committee last Friday disclosed the names of 243 donors who together contributed at least $9.7 million to the committee.

They included Hollywood personalities Robert Zemeckis, Sharon Stone and Jamie Foxx, each of whom gave Obama’s committee $50,000. In addition, financier George Soros and four family members gave a combined total of $250,000.

Of the donors identified, 169 contributed the maximum $50,000 each and 43 of them gave $25,000. Obama’s inaugural committee provided the names, employers and amounts for anyone who gave more than $200.

The committee has said it will not accept contributions from corporations, political action committees, labor unions, current federally registered lobbyists, non-U.S. citizens or registered foreign agents.

“The 4-ticket Inaugural Package offered by the Presidential Inaugural Committee costs $50,000,” Caplin wrote in his e-mail.

The package includes a nightclub performance on Jan. 17 and brunch the next morning, plus nighttime VIP seating at a concert that probably will take place at the Lincoln Memorial.

The fun on Jan. 19 includes candlelight dinners around town with members of Congress and drop-ins by the Obamas.

The Inauguration Day agenda includes four tickets to one of the 10 official balls in addition to tickets for the swearing-in and parade seating.

The Bush inaugural package four years ago featured a $250,000 package of four seats to the president’s swearing-in ceremony, 10 VIP seats at the inaugural parade, two tickets to an underwriters’ luncheon featuring the president and vice president, and 20 seats at candlelight dinners that took place simultaneously at three locations in Washington, with appearances by the president and the vice president.

That package also provided 10 seats to the inaugural kickoff celebration and fireworks, six passes to a home-state black-tie ball with appearances by the president and vice president, and four passes to any official inaugural ball.

(Associated Press)