New York: Despite country facing worst economic downturn since great depression, Barack Obama’s inauguration will come with a hefty price tag estimating at more than $170 million, a media report said on Tuesday.
But there are plenty of rich donors willing to pick up the tab, ABC News said.
“They are not the $20 and $50 donors who helped propel Obama through Election Day,” Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, is quoted as saying. “These are people giving mostly $50,000 apiece. They tend to be corporate executives, celebrities, the elite of the elite.”
The biggest group of donors were none other than the recently bailed-out Wall Street executives and employees, Ritsch said. “The finance sector is well represented, despite its recent troubles. Those who worked in finance still managed to pull together nearly $7 million for the inauguration.”
The donors will get some of the best seats in the house for the inauguration, as well as admittance to some of the best balls and other events.
The actual swearing in ceremony will cost $1.24 million, ABC News reported, quoting spokeswoman for Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural ceremonies.
It’s the security, parties and countless rentals that really run up the bill, it added.
The federal government estimates that it will spend roughly $49 million on the inaugural weekend. Washington, DC And neighbouring states of 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,” Linda Douglass, 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 in 1993.
“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,” Douglass 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.
Besides Wall Street firms, a large chunk of the money came from employees at companies such as Microsoft, Google and DreamWorks Animation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer and his wife, Connie, each gave $50,000. So did Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn, and filmmaker and DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg and its employees gave a total of $275,000, ABC News reported. While, billionaire investor George Soros and his family contributed $250,000, and Google co-founder Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt each donated $25,000.
Despite all the donations, Obama’s team has made donations much more restrictive than in the past, it noted, saying Obama capped donations at $50,000 per person, compared to $250,000 cap President Bush had at his last inauguration.
With expectations soaring high, the US media has began speculating on the contents of the inaugural speech of Barack Obama, as the 44th President of the US, and said it would emphasis on “culture of responsibility”.
In fact, some key aides of Obama also began indicating the tone of the inaugural speech, which the people, political observers and analysts are expecting that would be a historic one, given his oratorical skills.
Quoting Obama’s advisor, The Washington Post said the inaugural speech will emphasize the themes of responsibility and restoring public confidence. CNN reported that this will emphasize on “Age of New Responsibilities”.
The New York Daily News reported that Obama will use his inaugural address to preach that tough times call for government responsibility, Wall Street accountability and individual sacrifice.
When asked about the inaugural speech, Rahm Emanuel said: “I think what you will hear is a time and a place in which we all have an era of responsibility, that too long there’s been a culture of anything goes, and that to do what we need to do as a country, to regain America’s greatness and continue to move forward and be an example around the world, that we need that culture of responsibility not just to be asked of the American people, but that its leaders must also lead by example.”
The Congressional Quarterly said all the memorable inaugural speeches, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy, have been delivered at the time of serious national crisis or in times when significant changes were taking place.
“With the first African-American taking the presidential oath of office during the worst economic circumstances in three-quarters of a century, both conditions are already satisfied,” it said.
Rahm Emanuel, the incoming chief of staff, told a television news channel that Obama in his speech would seek the culture of responsibility would be sought for American leaders as well as the population at large.