U.S. taxpayers, you’ll be happy to know that none of your money is going directly toward Katy Perry’s hotel expenses this weekend. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions about who is footing the bill for all the 57th presidential inauguration ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
The three-day event, in which President Barack Obama will take the oath of office for his second term, began on Saturday with star-studded inaugural programs featuring Perry, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder and others.
On Sunday morning, a private swearing-in ceremony will commence at the White House. Legally speaking, Sunday’s ceremony is the real one, as the U.S. Constitution's 20th Amendment mandates that the president must be sworn in on Jan. 20. However, Monday's ceremony outside the Capitol building is the one with all the public ritual: U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the presidential oath of office to Obama, who, in turn, will deliver his inaugural address.
While Monday’s ceremony is not expected to be nearly as outsized as Obama’s historic 2009 swearing-in, there is still plenty of pomp and circumstance surrounding the whole affair. And at a time when the country is also facing a historic budget deficit, the question of who pays for it is on the minds of many Americans.
Thankfully, most of that pomp and circumstance is funded via contributions, collected by the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013, or PIC, the group responsible for celebrations such as the National Day of Service, the Kids’ Inaugural Concert, the Inaugural Parade and the Inaugural Ball. It’s unclear how much money in donations PIC collected for the celebrations this year, but, to put it in perspective, the equivalent group collected $53 million in donations in 2009, according to a filing with the Federal Elections Commission.
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One change in funding methods this time around is corporate donations. For Obama’s 2009 inauguration, the president -- a staunch opponent of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, which cemented the legality of super PACs -- refused to take corporate cash for his inaugural festivities. But this year, that rule is out the window: The list of benefactors contributing to inauguration weekend 2013 include such heavy hitters as Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and the Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO). The committee gave no reason for the reversal, but the general consensus is that the president’s reelection efforts -- part of the most expensive presidential campaign in history -- left individual donors tapped out.
Taxpayers aren’t completely off the hook, however. Responsibility for planning the swearing-in ceremonies and the congressional luncheon falls on the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, which was created in 1901. The committee is funded by taxpayer money, and the committee's budget this year is a little more than $1.2 million. A steep price in times of crisis, perhaps, but still down by about $163,000 from 2009.
According to the committee, 2009’s inauguration ceremonies attracted the largest number of attendees in U.S. history. The total bill for that event was more than $170 million, ABC News reported.
Obama’s public swearing-in ceremony will take place at the U.S. Capitol West Front on Monday circa 11:30 a.m. EST.