WASHINGTON -- December 22 -- As inaugural planners iron out the details of the many events surrounding President Bush's swearing-in Jan. 20, well-connected donors are contributing six-figure checks to help pay for it all.
The 55th Presidential Inaugural Committee last week revealed that it had raised close to $4.6 million, nearly all of it in amounts of $100,000 and $250,000, from a group of donors with deep pockets and strong political connections. The inaugural committee reportedly hopes to raise up to $50 million.
Although contributions to federal candidates and parties are capped by law, inaugural donations may be given in unlimited amounts. And though corporations and labor unions cannot give money directly to federal candidates or parties, they can help to fund inaugurations.
The official inaugural Web site lists two dozen individuals and organizations that had contributed to the inaugural committee as of Dec. 16. The donors are no strangers to political giving. As a group, they represent organizations whose employees and political action committees have contributed $9.4 million to Republicans in the current election cycle, which ends Dec. 31. Of that, $1.1 million went to the Bush reelection campaign.
The biggest campaign contributor on the list is Northrop Grumman, whose employees and PAC have contributed $1.3 million to the GOP in the current cycle and nearly $65,000 to the Bush campaign. The giant shipbuilding company and defense contractor sent $100,000 to the inaugural committee.
Southern Company, one of the biggest donors in the energy sector, gave $250,000 to the inaugural committee. Its employees and PAC have contributed just over $1 million to Republicans in the current cycle, $192,000 of which went to the Bush campaign.
Altria, the parent company of tobacco giant Philip Morris, has contributed $928,000 in individual and PAC contributions to the GOP this cycle and nearly $39,000 to the Bush campaign. The company gave $250,000 to the inaugural committee.
Individuals on the inaugural donor list include Michael Dell, founder of the Dell computer company; Richard Kinder, the former president of Enron who now heads natural gas company Kinder Morgan; and oilman T. Boone Pickens. Each gave $250,000 to the committee.
Three individuals listed as donors also are serving as fundraisers on the inaugural committee: real estate developer Al Hoffman, CEO of WCI Communities; Kinder; and Dwight Schar, CEO of the homebuilding and mortgage company NVR. All three were Bush Pioneers in 2000 for having raised $100,000 or more for the campaign and Rangers in 2004 for having raised at least $200,000.
Inaugural "underwriters," who contribute $250,000, will receive tickets to a number of events over the four-day inaugural celebration, including the swearing-in ceremony, the inaugural parade and an exclusive luncheon with Bush and Vice President Cheney. They also will be given tickets to one of three "candlelight dinners" on Jan. 19 at locations throughout Washington and one of the nine official inaugural balls, reported the Associated Press.
"Sponsors," who contribute $100,000, will be admitted to many of the same events but will receive fewer tickets, according to the AP.
THE INAUGURAL COMMITTEE
Leading the inaugural committee are several people who themselves contributed money to Bush's first inauguration four years ago.
Of the 14 individuals and couples who sit on the committee, at least seven contributed $100,000 or more to Bush's 2001 inauguration. At least 10 committee members were Bush Pioneers in 2000, and 11 of them achieved Ranger status in 2004.
Several committee members are large campaign contributors themselves. As a whole, members of the inaugural committee have contributed more than $1.7 million to federal candidates and parties during the 2004 election cycle. All but $42,500 has gone to Democrats, and more than $97,000 went to the Bush campaign.
Business partners Mercer Reynolds and William DeWitt, who are serving as co-chairs of the inaugural committee, are among Bush's most loyal supporters. They and their immediate families have contributed a combined $298,000 to Republicans this cycle, including $22,000 to the Bush campaign.
Reynolds and DeWitt, who operate a Cincinnati-based investment firm, were Pioneers in 2000 and Rangers in 2004. They served as co-chairs of Bush's first inaugural committee, which raised $40 million. Bush rewarded Reynolds by nominating him as ambassador to Switzerland, a position he relinquished in March 2003 to serve as the national finance chairman of Bush's reelection campaign. DeWitt served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
California businessman Brad Freeman is also an inaugural committee co-chair. He and his immediate family have contributed more than $138,000 to Republicans in the current cycle, $6,000 to Bush. Like Reynolds and DeWitt, Freeman was an inaugural co-chair four years ago, a Pioneer in 2000 and a Ranger in 2004. Freeman was appointed to the President's Council on White House Fellowships, and his brother, Russell, a 2000 Bush Pioneer, was appointed by Bush in 2001 to serve as ambassador to Belize.
Joe Canizaro, a finance co-chair for the inaugural committee, and his immediate family have given more money to Republicans ($285,000), and to the Bush campaign ($18,000), during the current cycle than anyone else on the inaugural committee. Canizaro, CEO of Louisiana-based Columbus Properties, was one of 22 business leaders whom Bush invited to lunch in 2001 to discuss tax cuts, according to Texans for Public Justice. He was also a 2000 Bush Pioneer and a Ranger for 2004.
This story, along with related charts and links, is available online at <http://www.capitaleye.org/inside.asp?ID=150>