Billionaires, corporations and NFL owners opened their wallets in a big way to help Donald Trump raise a record-shattering $107m for his inaugural festivities, records released by the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday show. The amount about doubled the record set by Barack Obama eight years ago.
After giving $5m, the Las Vegas gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson and his wife had prime seats for Trump’s swearing-in ceremony on 20 January and gained access to a private lunch with the new president and lawmakers at the Capitol. Phil Ruffin, another casino mogul and close friend of Trump, gave $1m.
All the seven-figure contributions fed into a fundraising total that dwarfed the amounts raised for past inaugurations – yet produced an event that was largely viewed as lower-key than previous swearing-in festivities. Trump’s inaugural committee does not have to disclose what it spent the money on or how much was left over. But it did promise to “identify and evaluate charities that will receive contributions left from the excess monies raised”.
NFL owners who chipped in $1m each included Dan Snyder of Washington, Stan Kroenke of the Rams, the Patriots’ Robert Kraft via the Kraft Group, Bob McNair of the Texans and the Jaguars’ Shahid Khan. Kroenke is also the largest shareholder of Arsenal football club in the UK.
Businesses that donated at the $1m level included Bank of America, Boeing, Dow Chemical, Pfizer, Allied Wallet, Access Industries, Qualcomm. Healthcare, energy and beverage companies were among the many businesses giving $250,000 or more.
Companies also gave huge in-kind contributions of goods and services, including $2.1m from AT&T for mobile equipment and software, nearly $500,000 in “vehicle expenses” from General Motors, $500,000 in equipment from Microsoft, $300,000 in food and beverages from Coca-Cola, $257,000 from Pepsi and more than $500,000 in delivery services from FedEx.
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.
In a statement, the inaugural committee said the multiday event “was one of the most accessible and affordable inaugurations for the public in recent history”.
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.
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 four and a half 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 a ticket to two of its balls. The Armed Services Ball was free.
The inaugural chairman, Tom Barrack, had said the aim of the inauguration was to capture the “soft sensuality” of Washington.
Trump’s $107m fundraising total was “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 $1m after long expressing skepticism about Trump. He has since visited the president at the White House.
Inaugural officials did not return requests for comment. Their release promised more details about charitable giving at a later date, “when the organization’s books are fully closed”.
After raising about $55m 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 $43m.
George W Bush raised $40m to $42m for each of his two inaugurations.
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 $1m 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.