- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Money keeps pouring in for President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural festivities, despite the economic hard times.

The inaugural committee has raised at least $27 million, donor information on its Web site Tuesday showed. Most of that has come in over the past three weeks.

If fundraising continues at that pace, Mr. Obama’s committee will have no problem reaching or exceeding the roughly $40 million raised for each of President Bush’s two inaugural celebrations.

More than 2,000 donors are helping to finance Mr. Obama’s Jan. 20 swearing-in festivities. At least 378 gave the maximum $50,000.

Top donors include financier and major Democratic donor George Soros, actors Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and directors Ron Howard, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. Lisa Henson, daughter of “Muppets” creator Jim Henson and the co-chief executive officer of The Jim Henson Co., also gave the maximum.

Math teacher Jon Mormino of Sidwell Friends School, where Mr. Obama and wife Michelle’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, started classes this week, gave $250.

The $50,000 donors get access to inaugural events such as candlelight dinners including appearances by members of Congress and the Obamas, as well as tickets to an official ball, the swearing-in ceremony and parade seating.

The inaugural committee is releasing the names of those who give $200 or more. It is refusing money from labor unions, corporations, political action committees, foreigners and Capitol Hill lobbyists.

However, the committee isn’t turning away contributions from those whose enterprises lobby in Washington.

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and five others at the Internet company gave $25,000 each. The inaugural committee received a total of $150,500 from six Microsoft employees, including the maximum $50,000 from Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.

Also giving the limit were Thomas Strickland, UnitedHealth Group executive vice president and chief legal officer; and two Indian tribes with casinos, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in California.

Google, Microsoft, UnitedHealth and the two Indian tribes have lobbied in Washington over the past year.

Other maximum donors include Louis Susman, who retired this month as vice chairman of Citigroup, a banking giant that has received a multibillion-dollar bailout from the U.S. government.

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