The Neverending Inauguration Story

Take a break from the 2020 campaign and reminisce about previous presidential transitions. Bill Clinton in 1997 and George W. Bush in 2001 limited contributions to their presidential inauguration festivities to $100,000 from any one donor. Bush upped the limit to $250,000 in 2005. Barack Obama did not accept contributions from corporations, labor unions, PACs (political action committees) or lobbyists for his 2009 inauguration celebration. Individual gifts were capped at $50,000. Still, he set the record with a $53 million haul.

The current occupant of the White House had no such limits. Thirty donors contributed $1,000,000 or more to the total of $107 million. What’s still in question is where all that money went.

Surprise! A lot of it went into the Trump Organization.

Somehow the Trump inauguration spent twice as much money for a party less than half the size as Obama’s. Trump put on three official inaugural balls; Obama had ten. Trump spent $25 million to put on the pre-inaugural concert. Toby Keith and 3 Doors Down entertained. Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and U2 performed at Obama’s.

Trump paid $26 million to WIS Media Partners, a firm set up a month before the inauguration by a friend of Melania’s. For what no one is exactly sure, other than $10,000 for makeup.

And of course, the Trump D.C. hotel collected much-higher-than-market rates for rooms and events. ($175,000 per day for a ballroom rental.) Donors were encouraged to make payments directly to vendors, avoiding any reporting for the income and expenditures.

A federal investigation goes on. Whether The Donald will face any consequences after leaving office is not known at present.

For a fun read, check out Michael (Moneyball, The Blind Side, The Big Short) Lewis’s account of the tragicomic ineptitude of the whole Trump transition.

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