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2014 elections inaugural lobbying • POSTED - 01.25.13 BY Louis Serino

Step aside Obama, congressional fundraising season is here!

Inauguration 2013 was packed with parties, concerts and formal balls celebrating Barack Obama’s second presidential term, but now it’s back to business as usual for America. “Beyonce-gate,” the most important story to come out of inauguration (hey, it had more legs than the speech), seems to have been resolved, and even the Senate finally did something about filibuster reform.

If you couldn’t make it to Washington for the president’s address, take a look at this hyper-quality panoramic view of the Capitol and you’re practically there (can you spot Boston Celtics legend (ahem!) Morgan Freeman?). Maybe you were in D.C., but couldn’t infiltrate a fancy-pants inaugural ball — check out WaPo’s nightlife superlatives, including their best overheard award: “’Believe it or not, the gay party ran out of champagne.’ — Overheard at the HRC Ball.” And if that’s still not good enough, catch this all-access pass to how Obama spent the weekend with a special edition of West Wing Week, including a special appearance by the First Dog, Bo!

But enough nostalgia for the weeks extravagant events. Now it’s Congress’ turn! The 2014 fundraising season is underway. PartyTime has the highlights below.

McConnell Back in Action
Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has spent 30 years in the Senate and has almost $7 million in his campaign coffers, he’s taking nothing for granted in next year’s reelection bid. PT already has him on the books for seven fundraisers since Election Day — four since Jan. 1.  On Sunday, billionaire John Catsimatidis will be hosting a reception at his posh 5th Avenue apartment for McConnell, costing up to $5,000. It is co-hosted by NY GOP chairman (and son-in-law of the late President Richard NixonEd Cox. Cox’s son (who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010) happens to be married to Catsimatidis’ daughter (they’re so close they even sent out a wholesome family Christmas card this year…). While McConnell will receive the donations, Catsimatidis is hoping to build up his political reputation for an upcoming bid for NYC mayor, even though McConnell voted against the Hurricane Sandy aid package — which New Yorkers just might care about.

The very next night, the turtle-esque senator will be traveling back to Washington for a Senate Committee dinner. McConnell may be in fundraising overdrive because he’s worried about getting “primaried” by the Tea Party; right-wing groups, like For America, are already questioning whether or not McConnell is a true conservative. The details of the event are hazy, including who will be there and where exactly it will be taking place, so send PT that invite if you got it! What we do know is that it’ll cost guests anywhere from $2,500 to $500 to attend.

The Return of Rubio
It’s been almost 6 months since PT recorded a fundraiser for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., but the rising GOP star is back. His newly formed joint fundraising committee, Rubio Victory Committee, will be the beneficiary of a fundraiser at a “Capitol Hill townhouse” on Jan. 30. PT would love to get it’s hands on the invite, so shoot us an email if you’ve stumbled upon it. Price levels go from $5,000 Host to $2,500 Sponsor to $500 personal, while PACs cost $1,000. It’s just another sign that Rubio could be preparing for a 2016 White House run.

Pryor PACs His Lunch
Even though Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., is planning his official 2014 kickoff in March (including a fundraiser with fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton), he’s getting an early start with a luncheon at congressional favorite Johnny’s Half-Shell. He’ll have lots of help though, as the following groups are listed as hosts: Experian PAC, Direct Voice PAC, VenPAC, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Magazine Publishers of America PAC, as well as lobbyists Greg Gill and Stu Ingis. Several of these organizations lobby on the communications and electronics industry, and it just so happens that Pryor sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee which oversees that area. Coincidence? To get into the lunch, guests will have to fork over $5,000 to host, $2,500 to sponsor and $1,000 to attend.

Though the inauguration is over, PT keeps the party going all year long — check back often for the latest political fundraisers. Until next time, Partiers!

(Photo: Pete Souza/Wikimedia Commons)

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Partytime inaugural visualizations • POSTED - 01.14.13 BY Louis Serino

The Hottest Ticket of 2013: The Inaugural Balls Are Here

Talk about a presidential party pooper: Barack “Killjoy” Obama decided to rain all over PT’s parade this time around, slashing the number of Inaugural Balls from 10 in 2008 to a measly two, the lowest since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953! We’d prefer someone more like Bill Clinton, who raised his Inaugural Balls total from 11 to a whopping 14 in 1997 —  now there’s a guy that knows how to party! But there are plenty more unofficial balls that you can attend if you’ve got the money – check above for PT’s updated map of ALL the balls, parties, receptions and even fashion shows we’ve found that celebrate the 2013 Inauguration. Each dot represents an event, just click for the details!

Yet why the significant drop-off in official revel? The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) gave some lame excuse about “reducing the burden on local law enforcement and security personnel as well as on DC residents.” Others claim it makes logistical sense, saying the Obamas can spend more quality time at a couple events instead of buzzing around all night. And still more claim it reflects the tough economic times the country faces, saying the president shouldn’t be displaying such extravagance when many Americans are facing financial hardship. PT doesn’t buy it — we think Americans need to party more, not less!

The two official balls announced by the PIC are the “Commander-in-Chief’s Ball” and the creatively titled “Inaugural Ball,” both on Jan. 21. The former was started by George W. Bush to honor America’s military, and the event is free of charge to those invited. Invitees include Medal of Honor recipients, wounded warriors as well as active and reserve military members — foreign troops can even join the celebration via video on large screens. The PIC has doubled the size of this bash since 2008, upping the list to 4,000 service members who have a chance at a dance with the First Couple. The event will take place on the 3rd floor of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center just one mile northeast of the White House.

The Inaugural Ball, however, is a rare opportunity for the general public to rub elbows with Obama around the punch bowl, with tickets costing only $60. Hoping to rub elbows around the punch bowl with the Prez (or, more likely, fruitlessly yell “HEY OBAMA” to him across a packed room)? Too bad tickets sold out a day before they were released thanks to a Ticketmaster error. The ball will take place amongst all five of the Washington Convention Center’s exhibit halls, a sprawling 700,000 feet, adequate space for Barack and Michelle to waltz the night away. About 35,000 people are expected to cram into the space, one that held six different Inaugural Balls in 2008.

According to the PIC, the events will include appearances by Alicia Keys, Brad Paisley, Far East Movement, fun., members of the cast of Glee, John Legend, Katy Perry, Marc Anthony, Mindless Behavior, Nick Cannon, Smokey Robinson, Soul Children of Chicago, Stevie Wonder, and Usher. Additional performers will be announced in the coming days.

But there are plenty of unofficial Inaugural events (as shown by our map!) that anyone can enjoy. PT already covered some of the highlights, such as the Black Tie and Boots Ball, the 12th American Indian Inaugural Ball and the Illinois State Society’s Inaugural Gala, in an earlier blog post here. And for even more coverage, like the Starry Night Inaugural Ball hosted by Washingtonian Magazine, the California Fashion Show and Luncheon and the Inaugural Millennial Ball, click here for more PT goodness. Remember, these parties may not have explicit political beneficiaries, but, like many of the ones held during convention season, they still provide ample time for lobbyists and politicians to schmooze – something we’re always on the lookout for here at Party Time.

If you are absolutely determined to get in to the top party in town — the official Inaugural Ball — more tickets will be on sale, but not for everyone, claims the Huffington Post. “They will go to campaign volunteers, community leaders, elected officials and other invitees, as well as donors being asked to contribute up to $250,000 individually or $1 million from corporations to pay for the festivities.” PT is glad to see the hardworking volunteers get a chance to cele — wait a minute. Donors? Corporations? $1 million?! Is this the same Obama that cracked down on Inaugural fundraising, barring corporations and contributions over $50,000?

Yes, Partiers, Obama will accept unlimited donations from corporations to finance his 2013 inaugural events. And, boy, is he stretching the term unlimited. PT unearthed a web page that exhibits exactly how much the O-force is suggesting for donations. The top tier requests a $1 million gift, dubbed the “Washington Premium Partner.” It includes:

“2 tickets to the Benefactors Reception + 2 tickets to the Co-Chairs Reception + 2 tickets to the Childrens Concert + Invitation to the Finance Committee’s “Road Ahead” meeting + 4 VIP tickets to the Candle Light Celebration at the National Building Museum + 2 reserved bleacher seats for the Inaugural Parade + 4 tickets to the Inaugural Ball.”

A million dollars only gets you two bleacher seats?! What even is the “Benefactor’s Reception?” What exactly is the “Road Ahead” for Obama’s Finance Committee? There seems to be many questions and very few answers. The only thing for sure is that these contributors will get special access to government officials behind closed doors — sounds like quite the party to us. Got more of the scoop than we do? Whisper in PT’s ear. Psssst! Over here.

Other packages include “Adams” at a $500,000 institution/$150,000 personal donation, and “Jefferson” at $250,000 institution/$75,000 personal donation.

While many think balls are grandiose ceremonies with tuxedos and gowns, many are changing what the term actually entails. More and more, presidential inaugural balls are becoming opportunities for social and business networking as opposed to waltzing. They are now being worded and structured carefully so lawmakers can legally attend (and talk with their lobbyist friends) without breaking regulations. For example, many invites include the term “heavy hors d’oeuvres” because its illegal for legislators to accept full meals from lobbyists.

“The inauguration is an expo for the biggest money-in-politics players,” says Sunlight Foundation Policy Director John Wonderlich. “Will we know who is donating, reliably, in real-time, online? Probably not. And what’s to stop donors with politically troublesome identities from laundering their donations through each other?”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee says it won’t reveal how much donors gave until legally required to do so — in a filing to the Federal Election Commission that’s not due till April.

But maybe Obama needs to additional cash; according to reports from officials, the PIC is at least $10 million short of its $50 million fund-raising goal with less than a week until the big day. Really. How can a president possibly be expected to hold a ball and a parade for a  mere $30 million? Excuse PT while we wipe our tear-dampened keyboard.

Let’s just hope Obama isn’t as much of a wet blanket as George W. back in 2005. On his second inauguration night, he and first lady Laura Bush “danced” for a grand total of 9 minutes before heading home. They were at the White House by 10 p.m. Now that’s a presidential party pooper.

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2014 elections PartyTimeData inaugural visualizations • POSTED - 12.14.12 BY Louis Serino

Mapping the Inaugural Parties!


(Updated 12/29/2012)

While most people are distraught over the fiscal cliff, worrying about the end of the world, or stressing out on buying that perfect present, Party Time is happy to see that some are thinking ahead to a more jocular time — inaugural ball season!

The PT homepage is sporting a spiffy new button that will guide you directly to all the 2013 inauguration parties we’ve logged so far. As it stands now, more than 50 parties will be thrown from Jan. 17 through Jan. 21 to celebrate the 57th presidential inauguration — and there are many more to come! To help you process all this information, we’ve assembled a handy map of each celebration above.

It’s simple – each marker represents an Inaugural ball thrown in the D.C. area; just click on each arrow to get the low-down on what’s happening there. We’ll continue to update the map as more invites flow in, so check back regularly!

While there are many parties represented here, PT knows that we haven’t quite captured them all — and this is where you come in, dear Partiers. If you’ve got the inside scoop on an inaugural ball, or if you want to get your own bash put on the map, please send the invite our way by uploading it here!

While the official inaugural balls list hasn’t been released yet (they’re usually announced in early January), several unofficial events have been scheduled by various businesses, organizations and state societies. These parties may not have explicit political beneficiaries, but, like the ones thrown at the during convention season, they still provide ample opportunities for lobbyists and politicians to schmooze – something we’re always on the lookout for here at Party Time.

One party that will be out of this world would be the Starry Night Inaugural Ball hosted by Washingtonian Magazine. Instead of a ritzy hotel, this party will be bumping at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum right on the National Mall. Tickets are regularly $350, but if you scoop yours up early it’s only $199.

Because California is California and its denizens have to be different from everyone else, they aren’t hosting a ball at all. Instead, they’re putting on a Fashion Show and Luncheon to try and prove that their state is better-looking than every other state. Unlike Washingtonian’s Starry Night Ball, this event will be taking place at a ritzy hotel – the Ritz Carlton D.C., to be exact. Tickets will run all you aspiring designers and models $250.

One of the more interesting events is the Inaugural Millennial Ball on Jan. 19. It takes place in M Central, a “brand new pop-up gallery space along D.C.’s historic H street corridor.” The space is so new that it doesn’t even show up on Google Maps yet. However, organizer Patrick Dowd — who has an interesting background — emailed PT over the Christmas/New Year’s break (and you thought we were napping off the sugar plums!) to say that tickets are $75 and available here. Throughout the weekend, M Central will be holding events for today’s youth to “come in from the cold, exchange ideas, and celebrate.” Sounds good to us!

Bonus: PT already covered some of the highlights, such as the Black Tie and Boots Ball, the 12th American Indian Inaugural Ball and the Illinois State Society’s Inaugural Gala, in an earlier blog post here. Check it out!

Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Partying
It’s easy to get carried away thinking of black-tie balls and extravagant celebrations, but there are still a couple of (relatively) blue-collar parties of note happening soon.

Scheduled this week are the first events for McConnell Victory Kentucky, a new joint fundraising committee to support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in his 2014 reelection bid. The committee will be the beneficiary of back-to-back identical dinners on Monday and Tuesday at 220 E Street, NE – also known as the townhouse of lobbyist (and McConnell contributor) Rick Murphy. Hosting McConnell’s party the very next night include Koch Industries, owned by conservative mega-donors Charles and David Koch. Seems like the Turtle is keeping some interesting company. To join them at both fundraisers, it’ll cost PACs $2,500 and individuals $1,000.

In this week’s “Party Time Dishonorable Mention,” Rep. Steve Fincher, R-Tenn., is hosting a $2,500 “Eastern Shore Duck Hunt” in his home state. But, we ask, who would want to shoot something as cute as this, or as majestic as this? Now that’s a party fowl!

We hope you’re as excited about the Inaugural ball season as we are (this is Party Time, after all) — let’s just hope the Mayans are wrong so we can enjoy it!

Until next time, Partiers!

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Suzanne Day)

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inaugural • POSTED - 11.15.12 BY Louis Serino

Presidential Ballin’: Inauguration Parties Are Here!

The Obamas at the 2008 Commander in Chief inaugural ballIt’s barely one week after the election and the first nails have already been hammered into the “Inaugural Platform,” signaling the start of the Inauguration cycle – and of course ball season!

People have already started planning their presidential bashes, and Party Time has found 11 unofficial events so far with many more to come – check here to see all them as they roll in. Most of the early planners are state societies, charities and universities. We are always looking for more invites so if you come across one, sent it our way via our upload page or email.

These parties may not have explicit political beneficiaries, but, like convention season, they still provide ample time for lobbyists and politicians to schmooze – something we’re always on the lookout for here at Party Time.

One of the premier events of the Inauguration is the Black Tie and Boots Ball held by the Texas State Society. It’s possibly the only place on Earth where the dress code not only allows, but encourages Armani suits and bolo ties, or Dior dresses paired with leather boots. (Let’s just say these folks won’t be winning America’s Next Top Model.) The quirky event will cost attendees $250 per head, and past drifters have included Texas Gov. Rick Perry, actor Denzel Washington, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. It may not be the same without a Texan in the White House, but it will definitely bring some Western spunk in this typically frumptastic town. (Check out the Washington Post’s brief account of 2009’s bash here).

President re-elect Barack Obama’s former state society will also be throwing an Inaugural Gala. The Illinois State Society is hosting its ball at the Renaissance Marriott and tickets will cost guests $260. Although most inaugural parties are scheduled to end at midnight, this bash promises “multiple open bars, heavy hors d’oeuvres and buffet stations, continuous live music and dancing from 8:30 PM until 1:30 AM.” Sounds like this party might be the one for us!

If you’d like a really expansive celebration, the 12th American Indian Inaugural Ball will have events spanning multiple days. Starting on Jan. 18, there will be a Lounge Reception; the next day will be the Inaugural Pow Wow (anyone up for a good Gourd Dance?); the following night will be the main ball; and lastly comes the post-bash Brunch, for you to recover from all that partying. Tickets start at $130.

But if you want to just chill, man, there’s always the Peace Ball, presented by D.C. hot spot Busboys and Poets. Hang out with fellow hipsters and the likes of Ralph Nader, Amy Goodman and Alice Waters to celebrate green energy, non-violence and talk about bands no one has heard of on Pitchfork. Unlike other balls, the dress code isn’t strict; they suggest black tie, but tell people “Feel free to express this however you like!” If you don’t get into the “Black tie and Boots Ball,” maybe you’d fit in just fine here… Or maybe not.

The official events of the Inaugural have not yet been announced by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, but are likely to come around early January.

The members of the committee, which organizes the events at the Capitol,  are leading Republicans and Democrats: Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is the chair.  Other members are: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Sen Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio;  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. It seems that the best thing to bring about bipartisanship is to throw a party, or ten parties (as they did four years ago.)

Official Inauguration Day Events include a morning prayer service, the procession to the Capitol, the Vice President’s swearing in ceremony, the President’s swearing in, the Inaugural Luncheon, the Inaugural Parade and, of course, the balls. For these festivities, the budget estimate is $1.2 million. The events that take place off the Capitol grounds are organized by the Presidential Inaugural Committee.  Returning presidents and presidents-elect can raise funds from the private sector to amp up the party and they do. The Center for Responsive Politics has a handy list of major donors who underwrote Obama’s 2008 inaugural.

(Lindsay Young contributed to this post. Photo of the Obamas at the 2008 Commander in Chief’s inaugural ball via iStockphoto.com)

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inaugural • POSTED - 01.15.09 BY Nancy Watzman

All the familiar faces

Speaking of the inauguration, the watchdog group Public Citizen took a long hard look at Obama’s list of official inaugural donors and discovered that they include a lot of familiar faces from the campaign. Nearly 80 percent of the $35.3 million raised came from just 211 individual “bundlers.”

More than half the inaugural bundlers also served as bundlers to the Obama campaign, according to Public Citizen’s analysis. They include many prominent Wall Street executives, who have been much in the news during the financial bailout, including:

• Louis Susman, vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking and managing director, vice chairman of investment banking, Citigroup ($300,000);

• Mark Gilbert, senior executive, Lehman Brothers ($185,000);

• Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO, UBS Americas ($100,000);

• Jennifer Scully, vice president, private wealth management, Goldman Sachs ($100,000);

• Bruce Heyman, managing director of the Private Wealth Management Group, Midwest region, Goldman Sachs ($50,000);

• Kobi Brinson, senior vice president and assistant general counsel, Wachovia ($35,000)

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has this interesting chart showing donors by employer. Topping the list are Hollywood’s Dreamworks, Microsoft/Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation, and Google.

Updated to add: The Center for Responsive Politics today released its own analysis of official inaugural donors here. From the news release:

The struggling finance, insurance and real estate sector still managed to pull together at least $7.1 million in contributions for Obama’s inauguration, leading all sectors in giving. Financier George Soros and his extended family contributed at least $250,000. The miscellaneous business sector, which ranges from retailers to liquor companies and advertising firms, is next, donating $4.9 million, followed by $3.3 million from the communications and electronics sector, which includes technology companies. Lawyers and lobbyists have given $3 million. (As he did during the campaign, Obama is refusing contributions from registered federal lobbyists but accepts money from their family members and coworkers who aren’t registered.)

Looking at specific industries within these sectors, the securities and investment industry ranks first. Individuals with Wall Street ties–118 of them–have contributed more than $3.6 million, or an average of $30,534 each. The entertainment industry has donated $1.7 million, with $275,000 coming from individuals associated with Dreamworks SKG alone. The film studio’s principals, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, were among the $50,000 donors, along with their wives.

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Spending inaugural • POSTED - 01.15.09 BY Nancy Watzman

Getting the party started

If you haven’t noticed already, the capitol city is turning into one big party. The celebration of the inaguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president is well underway. For example, the Hip Hop Caucus is planning a party tonight billed as an “exclusive pre-inauguration celebrity affair,” invitation only, with sponsorship levels reaching as high as $100,000, according to this schedule of events compiled by the political consulting group ConklinScott.

Events like the Hip Hop party are part of the long list of private events that are not required to comply with President-elect Obama’s restrictions and disclosure requirements for inaugural events. Obama certainly has gone further than any previous president-to-be, limiting contributions from individuals to $50,000, refusing donations form corporations, political action committees, and lobbyists, among other restrictions. (Read the fine print here.)  He’s also made information avaialble about his inaugural donors who give more than $200 here.  But these rules apply only to events funded by the inaugural fund, such as the ten official inaugural balls on Jan. 20.

Private events include corporate-sponsored state society balls, such as the Illinois State Society’s ball. That party is drawing contributions from lobbying firms PMA Group and Holland & Knight, as well as major corporations such as United Airlines, Motorola, Google, and Microsoft, reports the Washington Times.

As at the political conventions last summer, often these parties are carefully planned so members of Congress and top staff can attend while complying with ethics laws. Says the Washington Times:

These parties are being structured so that lawmakers can attend without breaking new rules that restrict their socializing with lobbyists. Many of the invitations include a menu of “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” for example, because lawmakers cannot accept full meals from lobbyists under the rules.

The Poker Players Alliance is hosting a private, invitation-only event to honor “our new poker player in chief” starting at 11 p.m. on Inauguration Day at a well-known local cigar bar. The fine print of the invitation, sent to some lawmakers, notes that the event “conforms with the congressional ethics committee rules.”

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PARTYFINDER™ Hints

Beneficiary: congressional candidate, lawmaker, or entity which collects funds raised at party

Host: person who is hosting party-often, but not always, a registered federal lobbyist

Venue Name: where the party is

Entertainment Type: type of gathering, such as "breakfast," "ski trip," "bowling"

Other Lawmakers Mentioned: lawmakers mentioned on invitation who are used as a draw for the event

Sunlight's Party Time is a project to track parties for members of Congress or congressional candidates that happen all year round in Washington, D.C. and beyond. (read more)

We also post information we receive about parties where members of Congress are expected to participate—such as convention or inaugural parties.

Since we don't hear about all the parties, you can also tell us if you know where the party is and we don't.