Political Party Time

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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