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Huge indeed: $107 million in donations for Trump's inaugural

20 April 2017

POWERED by billionaires and corporations, President Donald Trump raised US$107 million for his inaugural festivities, documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show, and almost double the record set by President Barack Obama eight years before.

One of the largest checks came from one of Trump's earliest financial benefactors: Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who contributed $5 million.

Two other casino moguls also gave generously: Phil Ruffin, a close Trump friend, donated $1 million, and Steve Wynn, now chief fundraiser for the Republican Party, gave $729,000 through his Wynn Resorts.

Money donated to the Trump inaugural committee fell into two categories, University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato said.

For many donors, the inaugural committee represented the last or only chance to get on the Trump bandwagon before he took the oath of office.

Disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday showed the contributions from corporate executives, lobbyists and businesses, as well as small donors, totalled US$107 million (S$149.6 million). But it did promise to "identify and evaluate charities that will receive contributions left from the excess monies raised". That's more than twice the $53 million President Barack Obama raised for his first inauguration in 2009, the previous record.

He held three inaugural balls, compared with the 10 that Obama had at his first inaugural.

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Four years ago, Obama raised $43.7 million for his scaled-down second inauguration, which cost $40.3 million.

The committee said it hosted more than 20 events during the inaugural festivities, including a free concert near the Lincoln Memorial and two inaugural balls. Presidential inaugural committees have traditionally been a way for major donors to express their support for a new administration - and for donors who backed a president's rivals during the campaign to make amends. Bank of America, Charles Schwab, Forrest and Lutnick did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The $7.25 million donated to the inauguration by National Football League franchise owners represented about 6.7 percent of all money contributed to the inaugural committee.

Asked whether the president feels conflicted about his committee accepting so much corporate and wealthy donor money, spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday that financing the inaugural is "a time-honored tradition" and there are "a lot of people who really take pride in helping us show the world a peaceful transformation of power". AT&T donated $4.6 million to the 2013 Obama inauguration, according to OpenSecrets.

President George W. Bush, for example, capped gifts at US$100,000 in 2001 and at US$250,000 in 2005.

The hefty donations will likely raise questions about Trump perceivably being beholden to his donors.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump reach the end of the inaugural parade at Lafayette Square by the White House in Washington on January 20, 2017.