Donald Trump made his mark both producing and starring in TV reality shows, but the production planned for Friday does not compare – it is poised to be more historic, more grand, and without a doubt much more expensive.
The price tag could surpass $200 million for an oath of office that takes about a minute, and a grand array of festivities that follow. And much as he has with his beauty pageants and his NBC program The Apprentice, the President-elect is reported to be personally involved in the tiniest of details for the Inaugural events.
“He looks like he’s just an average guy. But he’s a brilliant man,” said Phil Ruffin, an Inaugural Committee vice chair.
As they have for generations, American taxpayers will pay for the official part of the program – more than $115 million in recent years for the platform in front of the Capitol, the parade viewing boxes, and a dragnet of security along the 1.2 miles up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House.
But another $90 million to $100 million will come from corporations and big money donors. Six- and seven-figure donors will be offered elaborate inauguration packages, including exclusive dinners, tickets, concerts and inaugural balls.
The approach is similar to past inaugural events – though on a grander scale.
Obama’s second swearing-in cost taxpayers more than $100 million, but he raised about what half of what Trump is reported to have collected.
Donations for inaugural events have no legal limits, according to Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics. They will be reported 90 days after the new president takes office.
The fundraising effort is a turnabout from early in Trump’s campaign, when he pledged to finance his march to the White House with his own wealth.
“I don’t need anybody’s money,” he said at his campaign announcement. “I am using my own money, I’m not using lobbyists, I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
But now Trump’s inaugural committee is pulling in huge contributions from some of the biggest corporations that will want a good relationship with the new President.
Reportedly among them: big banks and large corporations seeking to limit government red tape. And many individual donors to Trump’s festivities have backgrounds similar to Ruffin’s – wealthy business executives who have history with Trump, but few ties to old Washington.
Ruffin, the billionaire casino executive who owns Treasure Island, partnered with Trump on the New York tycoon’s Las Vegas hotel. Later, Trump stood as best man at Ruffin’s wedding.
“They wanted a million dollars for these eight tickets,” Ruffin explained. “For half a million you can get four tickets but I needed eight. So I had to send a million dollars.”
“So of the ninety million dollars [raised], I am a million dollars of that,” he said.
ABC News’ Randy Kreider, Cho Park, Alex Hosenball, Alexandra Dukakis and James Gordon Meek contributed to this report.