WASHINGTON— It was huge.
Big money from billionaires, corporations and a roster of NFL owners poured into Donald Trump’s inaugural committee in record-shattering amounts — to pull off an event that was considerably lower-key than previous inaugural celebrations.
That leaves a bit of a mystery: What the $107 million was spent for and how much was left over — the excess, if any, to go to charity. It also raises a new round of questions about the influence of money in politics, this time for a president who promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington.
Contribution records from Trump’s inaugural committee, released Wednesday by the Federal Election Commission, show the president who railed as a candidate against the corrupting influence of big-money donors was only too willing to accept top-dollar checks for his swearing-in festivities.
Trump’s total take was about double the previous record set by Barack Obama, who collected $53 million in contributions in 2009, and had money left over to spend on the annual Easter egg roll and other White House events.
Trump’s top inaugural donor was Las Vegas gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million. He and his wife came away with prime seats for Trump’s swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20 and gained access to a private lunch with the new president and lawmakers at the Capitol. Phil Ruffin, another casino mogul and close friend of Trump, was among dozens of donors who gave $1 million each.
At least eight NFL team owners kicked in big money for the inauguration. Seven of them, including Patriots owner Bob Kraft, whose team won the Super Bowl and visited the White House on Wednesday, gave $1 million apiece. Kraft’s donation came via his limited liability company.
Trump plans to name the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson, one of those million-dollar donors, to be the country’s ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Asked whether the president feels conflicted about his committee accepting so much corporate and wealthy donor money, spokesman Sean Spicer said Wednesday that financing the inaugural is “a time-honored tradition” and there are “a lot of people who really take pride in helping us show the world a peaceful transformation of power.”
Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit pro-transparency group, countered: “If you take Trump at his word that when political figures accept large amounts of money from corporate interests or special interests that they’re indebted to those big donors, there’s certainly reason to question what donors to Trump’s inaugural committee might expect in return.”
As is often the case with campaigns and inaugurations, some of the donations came from people doing business with the federal government.
Billionaire Texan Kelcy Warren, whose company is building the Dakota Access Pipeline, gave the inaugural committee $250,000. Christopher Cline, a billionaire coal magnate who owns Foresight Energy Partners, gave $1 million. Trump has…