A fancy US presidential inauguration doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately for incoming presidents, plenty of companies and individuals have historically eagerly contributed to the effort through wildly overpriced luncheons, dinners, and other activities surrounding the big day. In the case of Donald Trump’s inauguration, they’ll cough up $1 million for the top package, which includes four tickets to a “leadership luncheon” with select congressional leaders and cabinet appointees.
The packages on offer all come down to tickets. Tickets to the leadership luncheon are exclusively reserved for underwriters paying $1 million. Compared to the cheapskates paying just $500,000, those generous souls also get a higher number of tickets to the various other events, which include:
- An “intimate” dinner with vice-president-elect Mike Pence and his wife Karen
- A “ladies luncheon” including an opportunity to meet the ladies of the first families
- An “entertainment-filled” victory reception
- A candlelight dinner that includes “special appearances” by the Trumps and Pences
- A concert and fireworks
- A parade down Pennsylvania Avenue
- VIP ballroom access at the inaugural ball premier
Underwriters paying such trivial amounts as $250,000 or—way down at the bottom—$25,000, will of course get fewer or even no tickets to some of the above.
Some observers believe it’s inappropriate for the well-heeled to ingratiate themselves with incoming leaders by helping to fund inaugural events. But as a way of raising money, such events are certainly effective. The inaugural committee for Barack Obama in 2013 raised about $43.8 million, including $250,000 from ExxonMobil. The one for Donald Trump in 2017 aims to raise $65 million to $75 million, though it could be weeks or months before we know who exactly pitched in.
Meanwhile, taxpayers still pay for much of the bill. Since 1901 the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has been responsible for the planning and execution of the swearing-in ceremonies, and since 1953 it’s hosted the luncheon for the inauguration of the US president at the Capitol.