Obama team still raising cash - now for the big day

November 19th, 2008 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Nov 19 (IANS) After raising a record $639 million for the election, President-elect Barack Obama is now collecting more cash for his transition and inauguration, an event that may attract some four million people to the capital.There is about $9.74 million of taxpayer funds available to pay for the transition, but experts cited by CNN say that’s not enough. To make up the difference, past presidents have turned to private money and corporate cash.

Obama’s transition team, however, will have to balance how to raise enough money without contradicting its tough talk against lobbyists.

President George W. Bush raised a record $42.8 million for his second inauguration, and according to Public Citizen, more than 90 percent of these donations were from executives or corporations.

Bush limited corporate donations to $250,000 each in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interests. Obama could decide to accept corporate donations for the inauguration, but impose tighter limits.

Even without corporate cash, the Obama fundraising machine has been a force. Nearly half of the record $639 million that the Obama campaign raised during the primaries and general election came in the form of donations of $200 or less.

As of mid-October, the Obama campaign had spent about $594 million, but any money left over from the general election cannot go toward the transition.

The president-elect could return that money to contributors, donate it to charity, form a political action committee or contribute to other candidates or party committees, as long as he stays within federal contribution limits.

Meanwhile, Washington city and federal officials are preparing for as many as four million people for Obama’s inauguration - a crowd that would be three or four times larger than previous big events on the National Mall.

Only a fraction of those people will be close enough to get a good look at the action. But officials are planning extra JumboTrons at the Mall and along the inaugural parade route so that spectators can feel a part of the historic day, the Washington Post said.

“The Mall actually may be the best seat in the house…It’ll kind of be like the world’s biggest stage and auditorium on Jan 20,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was quoted as saying.

The crowd projections have emerged in briefings conducted by federal and local officials, he added.

The biggest inaugural crowd appears to be the 1.2 million people who are said to have attended events at the 1965 inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson, the Post said.

In those days, the swearing-in was held in the more limited area around the east front of the Capitol, where it had taken place since 1829. It was not until the 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan that the swearing-in was moved to the Capitol’s west front, where larger audiences could spread onto the Mall.

Officials expressed confidence that they can handle January’s events, but they also know that Inauguration Day 2009 will be one of a kind.

For example, Fenty said, officials expect people to camp overnight, starting Jan 19, to get as close as possible to the swearing-in viewing area and parade route.

According to tourism officials, there are 95,000 hotel rooms in the metropolitan area in addition to the thousands of basements, spare rooms and sublet homes and apartments that will be available for inauguration-goers - for a price.

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