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Wealthy donors ready to kick up their heels at inaugural festivities

By Laurie Bennett

December 16, 2008 at 9:30am

Big-money supporters of Barack Obama kept a low profile during the election. Now it’s time to party.

According to the 2009 inaugural committee, 220 people have already given $10,000 or more toward the costs of the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Among the biggest contributors is the Soros clan, led by billionaire financier George Soros. Five members of the family each contributed $50,000, the maximum set by the inaugural committee.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the average contribution is $40,470, with total contributions approaching $10 million.

Although top donors are united by at least two traits - support for Obama and deep pockets - they make up an eclectic group. Among them:

  • Rockefeller cousins Alida Rockefeller Messinger and Laurance Rockefeller Jr., and his wife Wendy Rockefeller.
  • Hassan Nemazee, finance co-chair for the Hillary Rodham Clinton campaign.
  • Indiana Pacers co-owner Melvin Simon and his wife Bren Simon, a bundler for Clinton.
  • From the entertainment world: Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband Christopher Guest, director Robert Zemeckis, comedy writer Bonnie Turner, entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham and Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr.
  • Roger Milliken Jr., chairman of the Nature Conservancy and son of a big GOP contributor.
  • Retired U.S. Army Gen. John M. Keane.
  • Mitch Kapor, co-founder of Lotus Development and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • Anne Cox Chambers, daughter of media baron James Cox and former U.S. ambassador to Belgium.
  • Four attorneys at Power, Rogers & Smith, a personal injury law firm in Chicago.
  • Lisa Henson, daughter of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson.
  • Bina Rothblatt, spouse of transgender entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt, founder of United Therapeutics Corporation and Sirius Satellite Radio.

The inaugural committee has published the list of donors on its web site and pledged to update the list every two days.

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