- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Barack Obama’s newly formed Presidential Inaugural Committee said in its first announcement Tuesday the team will not raise money from political action committees or lobbyists for the Jan. 20 celebration.

The members of the group - four Democrats and one Republican - also pledged to open “as much of the National Mall as possible to accommodate more Americans than ever before,” seeking to meet the enormous interest and 4 million people who could be in Washington for the festivities.

The committee for Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced the lobbyist and PAC restriction on donations Tuesday afternoon.

The pledge to limit contributions follows the way both the campaign and the transition team raised money.

However, unlike the $2,300 campaign maximum donation or the $5,000 maximum donation for the transition, the maximum donation allowed for the inauguration will be $50,000.

The committee said the law does not restrict donation size and noted the figure is still less than past inaugurations, where limits were as high as $250,000.

In a release, the committee said the event aims to “underscore their commitment to change business as usual in Washington and ensure that as many Americans as possible, both inside and outside Washington, will be able to come together to unite the country and celebrate our common values and shared aspirations.”

The co-chairmen for the event are a group of friends and fundraisers who have long been at Mr. Obama’s side. They are William Daley, Penny Pritzker, John Rogers, Patrick Ryan and Julianna Smoot. Mr. Ryan is a Republican who is overseeing Chicago’s Olympics bid for 2016.

Mr. Daley serves on the Obama transition team and was secretary of commerce for President Clinton’s second term.

Mrs. Pritzker, a longtime Obama friend who helped him raise nearly $700 million for his White House bid, recently took her name out of the running for the Commerce post after it was reported she was under consideration.

Mr. Rogers is a prominent Chicago figure who serves on several boards and is chairman and chief executive officer of Ariel Investments.

Ms. Smoot was national finance director for the Obama campaign.

“It is a distinct honor to chair the committee that will organize the celebration of next year’s historic inauguration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden. We are committed to ensuring that these activities are organized in a way that reflects the American people’s common values, shared aspirations and commitment to addressing our challenges as one, united nation,” the co-chairmen said in a joint statement.

More information can be found at www.pic2009.org. The site solicits volunteers for Inauguration Day and encourages people to contact their member of Congress or U.S. senators for tickets.

Wary of scalping and the rash of scams surrounding the event, the site notes: “Please be aware that no website or other ticket outlet actually has inaugural swearing-in tickets to sell, because tickets have not yet been distributed.”

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