Big Donors Foot Inaugural Bill

Barack Obama has boasted that his inauguration will be funded by the same small donors who propelled his presidential campaign to victory, but a new analysis shows the inaugural bill is being footed primarily by big-dollar contributors, including many from Wall Street.

In fact, nearly 80 percent of the $35.3 million raised by Obama’s inaugural committee can be traced to just 211 individual bundlers, according to an analysis by the non-partisan watchdog group Public Citizen.

One Wall Street bundler steered the $300,000 maximum to committee, Louis Susman, a top Citigroup executive, the report found.

“No doubt many donors give simply because they want to be part of history,” said Craig Holman, a campaign finance lobbyist for Public Citizen. “But donors and bundlers who represent special interests with business pending before the government and who dole out five-figure checks to the inaugural committee usually want a seat at the table with the new administration.”

Though the federal government is pitching in $10 million towards the cost of Obama’s inauguration, his team is planning festivities that could cost as much as $50 million.

The privately raised funds will go towards opening up the inauguration so more can participate in it, said inauguration spokeswoman Linda Douglass.

The cash will pay for Jumbotrons and audio systems on the mall that will allow the expected massive crowds to watch the proceedings, as well as low-cost or free inaugural balls or concerts.

There are almost no limits on inaugural fundraising and Douglass pointed out that Obama is voluntarily disclosing contributions in almost real time, barring contributions from corporations, lobbyists, political action committees and unions and capping individual contributions at $50,000 a person, and bundled contributions at $300,000 per bundler.

Other Wall Street bundlers who contributed include:
* Mark Gilbert, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers: $185,000
* Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas: $100,000
* Jennifer Scully, a vice president at Goldman Sachs: $100,000
* Bruce Heyman, a manager at Goldman Sachs: $50,000

Bundlers are major fundraisers who corral checks from friends and associates and deliver them to a campaign or committee en masse.

Though Obama’s presidential campaign also had its share of bundlers – many of whom are also bundling for the inauguration – the campaign boasted that more than half of the record-shattering $662 million it raised came from small donors.

Those donors don’t appear to have had as large an impact on inaugural fundraising, which is typically harder to do than campaign fundraising. It’s difficult to gauge their impact precisely, since Obama’s inauguration web site is not listing donors who gave less than $200, but of the 5,632 reported contributions to the inaugural committee, only 113 came in at $200.

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