Inaugural Sideshows

Put aside the longstanding spectacle of a presidential inauguration and consider the sizable amount of special-interest influence-peddling going on this week.

Costs of this year's inaugural festivities are expected to exceed $40 million, and may be recorded as the most expensive in history.

Most of that inaugural tab is being picked up by corporations, trade associations, and individuals, although taxpayers are footing the bill for the massive security surrounding this year's events and the swearing-in itself. Big contributors include executives of many Fortune 500 companies.

With the 2003 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act limiting the amount of soft money that can flow to candidates and political parties, inaugural events become all the more important to companies and individuals wanting to curry favor with Washington's power elite. For a donation, they get prized access to politicians. A $100,000 contribution, for instance, bought the donor access to a dinner on Thursday with the president, the vice-president, and their wives.

And that's not to mention a plethora of private parties that allow for even more opportunities for the well-connected in business to mingle with the well-connected in politics.

Showing how those connections may affect future legislation could be difficult, but the effort just might fuel further campaign reform to address such lavish post-lection giving.

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