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VIPs? Not so much at an inaugural (Big $$ donors no longer important)
Chicago Business ^ | January 12, 2009 Issue | Shia Kapos

Posted on 01/10/2009 11:49:57 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

Most friends and associates of Barack Obama already have all but lost access to their pal and neighbor from the South Side. Now, their dreams of attending glamorous balls and dancing with the president and first lady will run up against the reality of inaugural festivities, which for perks and ease of access rank with a cold, crowded Times Square on New Year's Eve.

As many as 4 million people will converge on the nation's capital for the president-elect's historic swearing-in on Jan. 20 and the hundreds of balls and parties beginning Saturday. But call the inaugural the great humbler for Chicago VIPs, who will find themselves schlepping around town like thousands of other revelers.

Balls and galas will be packed, and, if history holds true, they'll offer little in the way of fine food or drink. There will be prohibitively long lines to check coats, use the restroom or buy a cocktail. And fashion will fly out the window as guests bundle up to keep warm while walking from one party to another (your car and driver will be stuck in traffic).

As for face time with Mr. Obama, there's a clear pecking order, with little gratification even at the top. To cover the cost of the inauguration, Mr. Obama has relied on individual donors, some paying $50,000 in exchange for a four-day package of tickets to the swearing-in and other events. Of some 2,000 donors, around 400 paid the $50,000. About 40 of those are from Illinois, including a few Pritzkers, Crowns, Malkins, high-powered attorneys and investors.

But even the access granted this group — to be seated in a grand room for a meal that the Obamas will attend — has its limitations.

"If you think you're going to come and talk to Barack, it's not going to happen," says Les Coney, an executive vice-president at Chicago-based Mesirow Financial Holdings Corp. and a member of the Obama campaign's national finance committee. "Maybe you'll get a glimpse of him, but you won't be able to 'see' him to shake his hand. The guy has 50 people around him. You can't get near him."

The best access to the future president was while he had his transition headquarters in Chicago. Mr. Coney had urged some of Mr. Obama's close supporters to attend a private post-election dinner at the Standard Club: "I told them, 'This is your time to shake hands and say hi.' "

Joyce Tucker, vice-president of global diversity and employee rights at Chicago-based Boeing Co., has booked a flight to D.C. and lodging at a downtown hotel with her sister, Yasmin Bates-Brown, an executive vice-president at Harris Bank. They're waiting to hear whether they'll have tickets to one of the 10 official inaugural balls: "You never know until the tickets are in your hand," Ms. Tucker says.

Though the women move in the same Chicago circles as the Obamas, they know there's little chance of special treatment or access next week.

"You have to tell yourself it's a good thing, that the new president belongs to everyone now," Ms. Tucker says. "Where it might be easier to have access to events in other situations, this isn't it. For this, it's, 'Hey, get in line.'

"I don't have a problem with that," she adds. "It's challenging, but we're preparing with patience and comfortable shoes."


Patricia Pulido-Sanchez and Manny Sanchez, powerbrokers in Chicago's business, political and Latino communities, opened their home a few years back for a fundraiser for an upstart politician with a funny name. Mr. Obama won that race for the U.S. Senate and later, as a presidential contender, asked Mr. Sanchez to serve on his national finance committee.

The couple has landed precious tickets to see his swearing-in, tickets to one of the 10 inaugural balls and an invitation to a dinner Sunday with the Obamas and a few hundred of their closest friends and associates (read: fundraisers), an event that now qualifies as an intimate party for the soon-to-be first couple. The Sanchezes hope the "exclusivity" of the party will give them "a little one-on-one time" with the Obamas, but they're steeling themselves for the fact that they might get little more than a handshake and a kiss on the cheek, given the many people who will be vying for the president-elect's attention.

"It's more about being there for this historic moment," Ms. Pulido-Sanchez says. But she has her fingers crossed that the Obamas will stop by next Monday's State of Illinois Ball, which she and her husband also will attend.

Patrick Sheahan, head of public affairs at UBS's Chicago office, says he's going into the inaugural events without his hopes too high.

"In a big crowd like that, if you don't have an expectation, then something remarkable is sure to happen," he says. "When you expect too much, you're always disappointed."

Mr. Sheahan is staying at the Hilton, one of the high-end D.C. hotels that are playing host to Chicago movers and shakers. Many guests are forking out as much as $6,000 for four nights. Numerous Chicago executives are staying at the Pritzker family's Hyatt Hotel, too.

Stella Black, 67, a property tax consultant who lives in Lakeview, has worked on Democratic political campaigns (including for Sen. Richard Durbin and the late Sen. Paul Simon) and also held positions with the state. She hopes to see Mr. Obama in person at a ball but knows she'll have to hang on to the memory of a hug and kiss she got last week, when he made a surprise visit to a small gathering in Mr. Durbin's office, where she was visiting.

"I went to the first Clinton inauguration, and I remember this incredible feeling," she says. "I know this one is going to be a zoo. There'll be more people and more security. But I want to experience it."

Ms. Black plans to attend at least one ball: "I'm going as a guest of a friend who says she has good tickets," she says.

Inaugural guests also must contend with fashion issues. What do you wear to a ball with 6,000 guests — the number expected at the State of Illinois Ball the day before the inauguration? You want to make sure you can move comfortably, as you may be walking a dozen blocks to get there. And even for such large events, women still want to find a dress no one else will be wearing.

Ms. Black tried to ensure herself a unique gown by purchasing from a Chicago designer: She chose a lavender three-quarter-length dress by Lauren Lein. And she registered the dress at, a Web site that's keeping track of who's wearing what to which ball.

Just about everyone can find some type of party to attend, with inaugural festivities at every price point: Beyond the 10 official black-tie balls are more than a hundred unofficial affairs, each running about $300. There are even $50 tickets for a few events that offer only dance music and a souvenir trinket.


Revelers with higher aspirations are seeking access to private parties — like Oprah Winfrey's invitation-only brunch at chef Art Smith's new D.C. restaurant, Art & Soul, or kid-friendly gatherings being organized by Michelle Obama. Or they're setting their sights on events with big-name entertainment. The sold-out Creative Coalition gala ball at the Herman Center for the Arts offered tickets at $10,000 (for just the ball) to $100,000: That includes VIP pre-admission, dinner and the ball, with musical guests Elvis Costello and Sting, and celebrities Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon and Maggie Gyllenhaal attending.

And there's interest in the American Music Inaugural Balls, a two-part party being hosted by Dionne Warwick and rapper Ludacris and featuring performances by Chaka Khan, the Temptations, T-Pain and Cedric the Entertainer, to name a few. Tickets for those events are $650 each.

For at least a few inaugural attendees, the balls and hoopla hold little attraction. Michael Alter, of Skokie-based Alter Group, acknowledges that he ultimately decided to attend because he didn't want to miss the historic opportunity. But his first inclination was to take a pass on all the D.C. fuss.

"The Grant Park (election night) event was so phenomenal that I just felt any other event would be downhill," he says. "I didn't want to ruin it by doing something else."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: District of Columbia; US: Illinois
KEYWORDS: barackobama; bho2008; bhoinaugural; bhoinauguration; democrats; inaugural; michelleobama; obama; obamainaugural
Friends of mine went to the inaugural for President Bush in 1989 and had a great time. She is now one of the directors at his presidential library.
1 posted on 01/10/2009 11:49:58 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
"If you think you're going to come and talk to Barack, it's not going to happen,"

This will just be the first of many, many disappointments for pointy headed liberals with stars in their eyes and expectations that The Lord himself would strain to fulfil.

"You have to tell yourself it's a good thing, that the new president belongs to everyone now,"

Everyone who can fork over $20,000, $50,000, or $100,000 anyway. The One is a man of the people!

”You know, I'm going to start thanking
the woman who cleans the restroom in
the building I work in.  I'm going to start
thinking of her as a human being”

-Hillary Clinton
(Yes, she really said that
Peggy Noonan
The Case Against Hillary Clinton, pg 55)

2 posted on 01/11/2009 12:15:00 AM PST by South Hawthorne (In Memory of my Dear Friend Henry Lee II)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

*snicker* The problem with buying a politican is making sure he stays bought.

3 posted on 01/11/2009 12:24:32 AM PST by Slings and Arrows (0bama must be well-endowed - look at how often he steps on his d---.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I have heard from a reliable source that if someone were to just touch the hem of a garment the chosen one is wearing, they will be cured instantly of any ailment or affliction they may be suffering from be it financial, medical, or otherwise.

4 posted on 01/11/2009 12:28:45 AM PST by skimask (Never argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience)
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To: skimask

I have heard from reliable sources that if someone falls for the Chosen One, they will be CURSED.

5 posted on 01/11/2009 12:47:31 AM PST by unkus
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Well it is obvious that our new “president elect” sold himself like a cheap whore. And from the ocean of cash he bought the election with, he sold himself to anybody and everybody with a buck.

The Change we can believe in is the Clinton cabinet returned.

6 posted on 01/11/2009 12:55:23 AM PST by American in Israel (A wise man's heart directs him to the right, but the foolish mans heart directs him toward the left.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

You couldn’t pay me to be at this circus!

7 posted on 01/11/2009 1:37:12 AM PST by kcvl
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
"... the new president belongs to everyone now," Ms. Tucker says.

Then she or anyone else are more than welcome to my part..ugh.

8 posted on 01/11/2009 2:19:17 AM PST by top 2 toe red ("My Christmas prayer for our country, please God, make obummer a one termer." hdbc)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
I guess "May Day" will be arriving early this year... *sigh*
9 posted on 01/11/2009 2:48:53 AM PST by Caipirabob (Communists... Socialists... Democrats...Traitors... Who can tell the difference?)
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To: AdmSmith; Berosus; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; justiceseeker93; ..

Jarrett is honored at pre-inaugural gala (the audacity of Chicago audacity)
Chicago Breaking News | 1-10-09
Posted on 01/10/2009 11:04:48 PM PST by STARWISE

-three card monte-

Obama to Pick Clinton Lawyer for Federal Probes
Newsweek | Jan 9 2009 | Michael Isikoff
Posted on 01/09/2009 11:14:52 PM PST by malkee

Obama’s Attorney General Pick Faces Growing Criticism
Washington Post | January 10, 2009 | Carrie Johnson
Posted on 01/10/2009 6:53:47 PM PST by neverdem

-from the “trick question” stringer-

Auditing Obama: Will the FEC examine the president-elect’s campaign finances?
Weekly Standard | 12-11-08 | Hans A. Spakovsky
Posted on 01/10/2009 7:30:45 PM PST by STARWISE

-from the “will mean scaling back campaign promises” desk-

Obama Calls for ‘Grand Bargain’ on Economy:
‘Everybody’s Going to Have to Give’ (Sadly, not satire)
ABC | 1/10/09 | George Stephanopoulos
Posted on 01/10/2009 3:49:41 PM PST by GeorgiaDawg32

Obama Calls for ‘Grand Bargain’ on Economy: ‘Everybody’s Going to Have to Give’
ABC News | January 10, 2009 | George Stephanopoulos
Posted on 01/10/2009 9:10:12 PM PST by stevie_d_64

10 posted on 01/11/2009 3:59:40 AM PST by SunkenCiv (First 2009 Profile update Tuesday, January 6, 2009___________
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

He’ll be the OPM President. He’s got tens of millions of dollars left in his campaign chest, but he’s still touching more people to pay for his inauguration.

I wonder how much it’s gonna cost us, the American taxpayers??????????

11 posted on 01/11/2009 6:28:17 AM PST by savedbygrace (SECURE THE BORDERS FIRST (I'M YELLING ON PURPOSE))
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To: American in Israel; All

That is an insult to whores everywhere... I wonder if he took money from the Chinese like Clinton did..

12 posted on 01/11/2009 6:42:37 AM PST by KevinDavis (Thomas Jefferson: A little rebellion now and then is a good thing)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Up to 4 million people in the nations capitol. It is going to be a madhouse. Not to mention the very cold weather DC will have those days. I just don’t understand why people want to get caught up in that mess. Even if it was someone I admired, I wouldn’t do it, but that’s me. I must be the minority.

13 posted on 01/11/2009 7:49:00 AM PST by HollyB
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

So ‘the new President belongs to all of us?’

Not to me, sweetie.

14 posted on 01/11/2009 11:11:37 AM PST by SusaninOhio
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To: savedbygrace

“He’s got tens of millions of dollars left in his campaign chest”

List of what 0 intends to buy............

15 posted on 01/11/2009 4:42:10 PM PST by combat_boots ("In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."Aldous Huxley)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

“As many as 4 million people will converge on the nation’s capital ...”

A statement that says nothing. It may be as few as 100,000 and the statement still is true.

16 posted on 01/11/2009 5:17:33 PM PST by WOSG (Oppose Big Govt spending - no bailouts, no boondoggles, no earmarks)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

she adds. “It’s challenging, but we’re preparing with patience and comfortable shoes.” Women in comfortable shoes.

17 posted on 01/12/2009 10:20:09 AM PST by printhead
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