Who's paying for Obama's inauguration? Lots of people

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 15, 2008 

WASHINGTON — Daniel Jacobs says he thinks it's going to be "a little crazy" in Washington when he takes his wife and three young children to Barack Obama's inauguration, but he's looking forward to it anyway.

To help out, the Charlotte mortgage broker sent $500 to the Presidential Inaugural Committee to help defray the cost of the event.

"They're expecting so many more people there," Jacobs said of crowd predictions of between a million and 4 million people. "If we're expecting proper facilities, security and everything else, their budget would end up being higher than the normal inaugural budget."

Nearly 1,800 people have contributed $1.17 million to the transition office as of Nov. 15, according to a report released by Obama earlier this month.

About 240 donors have contributed $9.7 million so far to the committee that's planning Obama's Jan. 20 swearing in and related festivities, according to records released Friday. The money is used to pay expenses while Obama and his staff set up his Cabinet and make plans for how to run each agency.

The reports are part of Obama's effort to be transparent about money in politics. Only individuals can contribute. The transition team isn't accepting donations from political action committees, corporations or unions. Registered lobbyists aren't allowed to donate money either. (The inaugural committee has the same rules, but it allows contributions of up to $50,000.)

Obama's transition gets $8.5 million in taxpayer dollars to operate, and Obama hopes to raise an additional $3.5 million.

Willie Mae Sloan said it may sound corny, but she felt like she could make a small difference in helping Obama make a smooth transition into office if she sent a check for $50.

"It gave me a feeling of involvement," said Sloan, a registered nurse from Spencer, North Carolina. She'd never contributed to a candidate before she started doing volunteer work for Obama during the campaign.

The mix of folks who have contributed to the transition include longtime Democrats.

Environmental activist Lisa Renstrom of Charlotte, the former national Sierra Club president whose name briefly surfaced on Obama's short-list as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, gave $250.

So did O. Max Gardner III, the grandson of the former N.C. governor of the same name, and he thinks his money is being well spent.

"It's been pretty amazing to me the organization of the campaign and I think it's carried on to the transition period too," the Shelby attorney said.

Many of the contributors donated campaign cash when Obama was still a candidate. Gardner gave $2,000 to Obama's campaign.

Charlotte attorney Paul Reichs had given $1,000 to the campaign and sent in another $250 for the transition.

"Once the election went as I hoped it would, I knew they would have a lot of work to do to make it an orderly and productive transition, so I sent them a few more dollars," Reichs said.

It's not hard to figure out where to send the money, the contributors say.

"Once you get on their e-mail list, it's a blizzard," Reichs said.

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