WASHINGTON — Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate and stalwart Republican donor, gave $5 million to support the festivities surrounding President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The gift was the largest single contribution ever given to an inauguration, but far from the only seven-figure check deposited by the committee responsible for carrying out much of the pomp leading up to Trump’s swearing in.
A 510-page disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday shows more than two dozen million-dollar checks from corporations and wealthy individuals, including Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and a close friend of Trump’s; Steven A. Cohen and Charles Schwab, both billionaire investors; and Robert R. Parsons, the founder of GoDaddy.com.
In previous inaugurations, individuals were only allowed to make contributions up to $250,000.
Altogether Trump raised $107 million for his inauguration, twice the previous fundraising record, which was set by Barack Obama in 2009.
The inaugural committee announced its fundraising total on Tuesday, but because it filed its report by hand, the document was not publicly available until Wednesday.
Some of the biggest checks came from corporate executives and businesses who would soon have major interests at stake under a Trump administration, from the energy sector to Wall Street. Other big contributions came from donors or interest groups who had held their noses when Trump won the Republican nomination — or even staunchly opposed him.
Their money flowed despite — and perhaps because of — Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption and influence-peddling that have shown little sign of abating in the first months of his presidency.
Trump’s inaugural committee is not required to report how it spent money on his inauguration festivities, which included more than 20 events and drew modest crowds. Nor do the documents reveal if any money was were left over after the crowds returned home. (The committee said on Tuesday it would donate any excess money to charities, which are still being selected.)
Because inaugural committees face few of the regulations that limit campaign fundraising, it has traditionally been up to each administration to set its own restrictions.
George W. Bush, for example, capped gifts at $100,000 in 2001 and at $250,000 in 2005. Obama only accepted gifts up to $50,000 in 2009, while banning all gifts from lobbyists and corporations altogether. He relaxed those restrictions in 2013, accepting corporate gifts up to $1 million and individual gifts up to $250,000.
Trump, it appears, set comparatively loose restrictions, and did not limit how much individuals could give. His team said it would not solicit corporate donations over $1 million.
At the center of the inaugural effort was Thomas Barrack Jr., a private equity investor who is one of Trump’s closest and oldest friends. It was Barrack who hosted one of Trump’s first major fundraisers at his Santa Monica, California, home last May, and who spoke in Cleveland the night Trump accepted the Republican nomination.
As inaugural chairman, Barrack oversaw a staff of several hundred people responsible for financing and planning the weeklong festivities. Shuttling between Los Angeles, Trump Tower in New York and Washington on his private jet, Barrack carefully attended to every detail and emerged as one of Trump’s chief liaisons to large swaths of the business community who had shunned him.
The biggest donors received invitations to a slate of private, behind-the-scenes events in the week leading up to the inauguration, where they mingled with members of Trump’s inner circle. The exclusive events included dinners honoring Barrack, Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet nominees and the first family. Trump made an appearance at each one.
Donors also received special access to the week’s more public events, from inaugural balls to the swearing-in itself. Some were even invited to use Trump’s new Washington hotel, just blocks from the White House, as an informal gathering place for the week.
Perhaps no donors were rewarded with greater access than the Adelsons, stalwarts of Republican fundraising who only threw their support behind Trump late in his campaign. Trump singled out the couple to thank them for their support during a luncheon honoring congressional Republicans on inauguration eve. The following morning, the pair sat along the aisle just a few rows back from Trump on the inaugural platform as he took the oath of office.