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Billionaires, Companies Power Trump's Record Inaugural Haul

by Nancy Benac and Julie Bykowicz
Thursday Apr 20, 2017

Powered by billionaires and corporations, President Donald Trump raised $107 million for his inaugural festivities, documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show, and nearly doubled the record set by President Barack Obama eight years ago.

After giving $5 million, Las Vegas gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife had prime seats for Trump's swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20 and gained access to a private lunch with the new president and lawmakers at the Capitol.

Two other casino moguls also gave generously: Phil Ruffin, a close Trump friend, donated $1 million, and Steve Wynn, now chief fundraiser for the Republican Party, gave $729,000 through his Wynn Resorts.

Health care, energy and beverage companies were among the many businesses giving $250,000 or more.

The inaugural committee's 510-page filing about its donors is not yet available in a data-downloadable format, and converting it will take days or weeks, according to the FEC.

The committee doesn't need to publicly disclose how the money was spent.

In a statement, the inaugural committee said the multi-day event "was one of the most accessible and affordable inaugurations for the public in recent history."

Trump's inaugural involved less hoopla than others in recent years.

He held three inaugural balls, compared with the 10 that Obama had at his first inaugural. Trump's team shortened its parade to about 90 minutes. The longest parade, with 73 bands and 59 floats, lasted more than 4 1/2 hours, at Dwight Eisenhower's first inauguration in 1953.

Trump's inaugural team failed to attract the kind of pricey A-list performers who turned out in force for Obama. Trump's headliners included teen singer Jackie Evancho, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Radio City Rockettes. The committee put on a free opening day concert and charged $50 per ticket to two of its balls. The Armed Services Ball was free.

The slimmed-down affair, which inaugural chairman Tom Barrack said aimed to capture the "soft sensuality" of Washington, raises questions about whether Trump spent the entire record-setting sum. He promised to give any extra money to charity, but didn't specify which ones.

Trump's $107 million fundraising total is "an awful lot of money - it's roughly what we spent on two," said Steve Kerrigan, who was CEO for Obama's inaugural committee in 2013 and chief of staff in 2009. Kerrigan said the inaugural events may have served as an opportunity for donors who held back during the presidential campaign to try to curry favor by showing support for the incoming president.

Billionaire investor Paul Singer, for example, gave $1 million after long expressing skepticism about Trump. He's since visited the president at the White House.

Inaugural officials didn't immediately return requests for comment Tuesday. Their release promised more details about charitable giving at a later date, "when the organization's books are fully closed."

Trump placed no restrictions on the amount of money that donors could give. Obama limited contributions to $50,000 in 2009 but lifted that cap four years later.

After raising about $55 million in 2009, Obama used excess funds to help pay for the White House Easter egg roll and other events, his former inaugural committee chief executive officer said.

For Obama's second inaugural in 2013, his committee raised about $43 million.

Former President George W. Bush raised $40 million to $42 million for each of his two inaugurations.

Trump's inaugural committee said it would "identify and evaluate charities that will receive contributions left from the excess monies raised."

In the past, questions have been raised about Trump's follow-through on his commitments to make charitable donations. For example, he pledged in January 2016 to donate millions to veterans from a highly publicized fundraiser, including $1 million of his own money. Much of that money was distributed in May 2016, after The Washington Post pressed him about whether he had followed through on his promise.

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