Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the New York Times reports:
President Obama’s finance team is offering corporations and other institutions that contribute $1 million exclusive access to an array of inaugural festivities, including tickets to a “benefactors reception,” a children’s concert, a candlelight celebration at the National Building Museum, two reserved parade bleacher seats and four tickets to the president’s official inaugural ball.
The offerings are detailed in an online inaugural fund-raising solicitation provided to The New York Times by an Obama fund-raiser. The document describes four packages that Mr. Obama’s finance team can sell, with differing levels of access depending on the level of contribution. Individuals who contribute $250,000 will receive the same package as million-dollar “institutional donors,” which could include corporations, philanthropies, foundations and unions.
The financing arrangements are a departure from Mr. Obama’s policy in 2009, when he refused corporate donations altogether and capped individual contributions at $50,000. As in 2009, Mr. Obama will not be accepting money from lobbyists or political action committees.
While taxpayers pay for inaugural events at the Capitol — the swearing-in ceremony and inaugural luncheon — the president must raise money from private donors for everything else, including the inaugural parade, ball and concerts. In 2009, Mr. Obama raised $53 million.
The online solicitation, sent to donors by e-mail on Friday, described the different inaugural packages, each named for a president: Washington ($1 million from institutions and $250,000 from individuals); Adams ($500,000 from institutions and $150,000 from individuals); Jefferson ($250,000 from institutions and $75,000 from individuals); and Madison ($100,000 from institutions and $10,000 from individuals).
Financing arrangements like these are typical for presidential inaugurals. To help pay for President George W. Bush’s 2005 inaugural, dozens of companies, including Home Depot and Bank of America, contributed $250,000 apiece.
But Mr. Obama’s decision has drawn criticism from good-government advocates, who accuse him of abandoning his pledge to keep big money out of politics.
John Wonderlich, policy director of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for openness in government, wrote on the group’s blog that the decision “prioritizes a lavish celebration over the integrity of the office,” and that Mr. Obama was “turning away from a principled approach to money in politics.”
The president’s inaugural planners, however, have defended the decision, saying that museums, philanthropic organizations and service groups, like the Red Cross, all accept corporate money. And with Democratic donors feeling tapped out from an expensive presidential campaign, the planners concluded they needed to expand their fund-raising methods.
The 2013 inaugural festivities will be smaller in scope than the huge celebration of 2009, which drew an estimated 1.8 million people to the capital. The inaugural committee has not announced a schedule for the 2013 events, and a committee aide said that no final decision had been made about the number of inaugural balls to be held.
However, donors were told on a conference call on Friday that this time there would be only three official inaugural balls that the president and his wife would attend, according to one person who listened. In 2009, they attended 10 of them.
And because Jan. 20, the constitutionally mandated date for the presidential swearing-in, falls on a Sunday this year, Mr. Obama will take his oath in private at the White House, and the public swearing-in ceremony and other events will be held on Jan. 21.