January 20th, 2009
01:30 PM ET

How did they get that seat? They paid

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/01/20/obama.inauguration/art.obama.speech.cnn.jpg]

Drew Griffin | BIO
CNN Investigative Correspondent

This may be a day of change, but one thing never seems to change about Washington: money opens doors, and in this case seats to history. While millions huddle in the cold for a peek of the swearing in ceremony, those with thousands have paid for the privilege most of us can’t afford.

The inauguration is being financed by private donations. The donations are being limited to $50,000 per contributor. No lobbyists are allowed to give, per strict rules by the Obam-ites. But like all things DC there is wiggle room, so families of lobbyists can give. Others, like liberal activist financier George Soros seems to have his whole family giving the limit.

And what do they get? Tickets to the ceremony, parade and the ball.

The Center for Responsive Politics collected the data. You can view it right here. Take a look at who you see on screen and then see just how much they gave to get that spot. I find it a fun and interactive way to see how Washington never really changes.

Filed under: Inauguration
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Teresa, OH

    If we are all equal here, where does money come into the picture?

    @Cindy: I like that: "while the rest of us have to stand off to the side"
    And the only thing we folk have going for us is TO VOTE on everything we are eligible to.

    Money talks, always has, always will.

    January 20, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  2. Heather,ca

    I agree with you on everything. The thing is the tickets for a seat in the sections for the ceremony are free. You have to know someone. Mt grandparents were invited guests of a superior court judge and his wife for both Kennedy's ceremony and Johnsons. Those tickets are free. But they happened to be best friends and he knew the right people. I dont know how many balls there were back then but I do know that my grandparents and their friends attended them as well. I would have to imagine that much has changed in DC since then and Im sure with the number of organizations and special interests competing with each other that money still does talk. Of course if you see a celebrity like John Cousack who when asked how he got a seat he played it all down, when in fact it was Obama's way of saying thank you for helping him early on in Chicago. I understand historical figures but celebrities well I dont know.

    January 20, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  3. Larry

    Where were Revs. Jackson, Sharpton; Pastor Wright, Oprah?

    January 20, 2009 at 3:33 pm |
  4. parag gandhi

    I know money comes from lobbyist, but where do they get there money, by taking it away from us the people, No matter what Congress will always shun an eye toward whats right, God forbid if they ever take full control, this will be the death of America, They were not able to do anything over the last four years except argue over petty stuff, They knowingly know that so many states are in the red they should have collectively taken a pay cut over the next few years.
    As we already know 99% of congress and the house are well to do individuals and excepting pay to serve your felloow americans is a moral sin, it should be a moral obligation to serve the people of our great country.

    January 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  5. M.E. Wren

    Nothing comes for free or, as someone else said, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

    Why would someone else having those seats because they contributed to the inauguration fund bother anyone? Many were friends, worked in the campaigns or participated in inspiring the rest of us during the campaign. Would anyone be happier if those seats went to somes ort of "first come, first serve" chaos? Not me.

    I am happy that there are those who could afford to help bring this to the rest of us.

    Thank you.

    January 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  6. Fleming Williams / Tn.

    I'm afraid that the mistrust of government is still going to be the most divisive issue that Obama will face...and we all know that money and mistrust go hand in hand. And by the way...couldn't the 150 million plus dollars spent on the inauguration been better spent helping the poor, schools, the enviroment, etc. STRIKE ONE!

    Sam/ Tn.

    January 20, 2009 at 2:43 pm |
  7. parag gandhi

    The day was great and historic, but........
    All campaign long dems have yelled spending needs to be handled and money wisely spent.
    I think Obama to win over the remainder nay sayers should have had a more closed ceremony(looking at the state of the economy) which would have put him as the most envied person for doing so. Fixing the economy and making it right, on his second term a grand gala would have benefitted. What happened here is $ 44 million dollars of tax pay money was used in a time when the economy is in shambles, that money could have saved over 150,000 homes that are in foreclosure. What would you have done?
    Also adding with history at his doorstep his speech was abit lame, a more powerful, a King like speech would have echoed through all the homes of the US. In the end it was a historic day thats all, nothing great except for who he is, our first Black President, we wish him luck..

    January 20, 2009 at 2:39 pm |
  8. William of Iowa

    So what. Their money helped pay the bill at a greater level than mine. I thank them. I watched from the warm comfort of my living room CNN's broadcast, good job by the way. Why don't you add my name to the list Griffin.

    January 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  9. MW Australia

    I agree with Cindy. At least they made the no lobbist rule, so Obama had initially people that support him, rather than expecting something in return.

    January 20, 2009 at 2:27 pm |
  10. maria

    I am watching CNN now and I hear you Anderson, always asking... basically, how did this person manage to get that seat. I discussed this with a friend yesterday.

    My argument was that it is unfair money was able to buy them their great seats. What about "unofficial" public service? Such as the ones from your Hero Awards show. Doesn't that have value to earn you a good seat?

    My friend's argument was that majority of society does not know those people. Famous faces are needed because it looks good for the President and the U.S. to the rest of the world watching.

    January 20, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  11. Cindy

    It doesn't seem like anything has changed to me. It has always been about money...who has it gets the "in" while the rest of us have to stand off to the side. Congress is all about the money...always has been always will be. That won't change I am afraid!


    January 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm |