Inauguration tickets: In the new D.C., money still talks

Fort Worth Star-TelegramJanuary 12, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass has hard-to-get tickets to the presidential inauguration that he got the old-fashioned way, through a hefty donation.

Bass gave the presidential inaugural committee $50,000 – the maximum individual contribution set by President-Elect Barack Obama - which entitles the Keystone Group president to four tickets to all official inaugural events.

Fort Worth resident Lynda Hill was an Obama supporter, too, but all her $250 contribution got her was a nice, formal inaugural invitation "suitable for framing." She’s going to the inauguration, anyway. Hill said she knew Bass' name was on the donor list posted by the inaugural committee. "I saw that," she said. “He’s probably got a better seat than I do.”

Actually, Hill doesn't have a seat anywhere but she and husband, Second Court of Appeals' Senior Justice John Hill, are going to join the crowds on the Mall, weather permitting, she says.

"I liked the idea that he (Obama) was not taking contributions from the big lobbying groups," said the long-time Democrat of her contribution. "It made sense to me that somebody had to pay for the inauguration."

The couple has reservations to fly to Philadelphia, (cheaper than flying directly to Washington), rent a car, stay at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center and attend the Texas State Society’s Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball, which is being held at the Gaylord this year.

"I kind of feel if we don't do anything else, we'll have a good time," she said.

Hill and her husband, who both attended the Jimmy Carter and first Bill Clinton inaugurations, decided after Election Day that they had to go to Obama’s. "We just don't want to miss it," she said. "It's history in the making."

It's not clear what Bass will do with his tickets – no one returned a message left at Keystone. Bass was a large contributor of over $45,000 to Democrats in 2008, including the individual limit of $2,300 to the Obama campaign in the general election and $25,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Committee. He also gave $97,500 to America Votes, a coalition of progressive groups headed by former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas.

Hill is good-natured about attending the swearing-in. "If the weather is really bad, I'll watch it from the big screen TV in the Gaylord," she said.

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