WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama picked prominent Chicagoans -- all prolific fund-raisers -- to co-chair his Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The committee -- nicknamed the PIC -- will limit individual donations to $50,000 and will not -- in contrast to other PICs -- accept money from corporations, political action committees, current federally-registered lobbyists, non-U.S. citizens or registered foreign agents. There are no legal limits to contributions, which in the past have soared to $250,000.
The PIC fund-raising is separate from Obama fund-raising for his presidential transition team, with $5,000 caps.
The PIC co-chairs are Penny Pritzker, chair of Obama's presidential finance committee; John Rogers, the Illinois finance co-chair during the campaign; William Daley, the former commerce secretary; business executive and Republican Patrick Ryan, the Chicago insurance magnate who can tap donors the others can't. Joining them is Julianna Smoot, who was Obama's campaign chief fund-raiser.
On the drawing boards is a massive inauguration event on the National Mall. The PIC launched a campaign-style social networking web site, pic2009.org. A person signing up for e-mail alerts on the inauguration is automatically channeled to a page encouraging them to get their friends to also sign up. The separate transition operation is also running a web operation based on the presidential campaign.
In the announcement, the PIC asserted it is abiding by "an unprecedented set of limitations on fundraising" -- a claim "not entirely true," according to the watchdog Public Citizen. President Clinton's second inauguration banned corporate dollars, set $100 donation limits and sold inaugural ball tickets for up to $3,000. Public Citizen put together a new web feature tracking the transition called Becoming44.
However, Clinton did take corporate money for his first inauguration and carried a $9 million surplus over to the 1997 festivities.
PIC Communications Director Josh Earnest said in reply,"By ensuring that corporate money is not used to pay for inaugural activities and voluntarily capping individual donations to the PIC, President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden are following through on their commitment to change the way business is done in Washington. While these measures are not perfect, they represent the kind of change that Americans in both parties are ready to see in Washington."