The Extraordinary Cost to Inaugurate a President

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INAUGURATION FACTS AND FIGURES

Presidential inaugurations have always been expensive, and experts estimate the cost of last week’s inauguration of President Donald Trump and the accompanying celebrations to be anywhere between $175 million and $200 million. Here are some interesting facts:

  • Republicans and Democrats spend about the same amount for each inaugural celebration when the costs are adjusted for inflation.
  • Each year, critics lament the extraordinary cost.
  • The cost of a Presidential inauguration is split between private donors and taxpayers.
  • Events incorporated into the total cost of an inauguration include the swearing-in at the Capitol, the parade, official parties and dinners, inaugural balls, and security measures.

This Washington Post article summarizes inaugural events and their various price tags in a bit more detail. HeinOnline also has an impressive collection of U.S. Congressional Documents, in which nearly 21,000 Congressional Research Service Reports are contained. Some of these CRS Reports provide details on specific presidential inaugurations, as well as general historical information about the inaugural process.

The Presidential Inauguration of 2005

Screenshot of the Presidential Inauguration of 2005 basic facts and information document

This report describes the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which declares “the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January”:

Screenshot of excerpt from the 20th amendment

NOTE: When January 20 occurs on a Sunday, the ceremonial swearing-in and public inaugural ceremonies take place on the following Monday, as was the case in 2013 for President Obama’s second inauguration.

The report on the 2005 inauguration also details specific events’ costs, as well as what was privately funded versus funded by taxpayer dollars. For example, government funding sources, including both the federal and District of Columbia governments, totaled $115.5 million and provided security, the swearing-in ceremony, maintenance, cleanup, bleachers, fencing, and a holiday for government workers. Funding from private sources from the 55th Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) totaled $42.3 million and footed the bill for fireworks, inaugural balls, the parade, the concert on the Mall, and other unofficial receptions and parties.

The same report provided historical information about estimated amounts of private funding from past inaugural festivities:

  • 2001: George W. Bush, $30 million
  • 1997: Bill Clinton, $29 million
  • 1993: Bill Clinton, between $25 million and $30 million
  • 1989: George W. Bush, $30 million
  • 1985: Ronald Reagan, $20 million
  • 1981: Ronald Reagan, $16.3 million
  • 1977: Jimmy Carter, $3.5 million
  • 1973: Richard Nixon, $4 million

more recent CRS Report, published in 2013, details the 2009 presidential inauguration. Public funds once again supported the swearing-in ceremony, security, maintenance construction, bleachers, fencing and cleanup, but the author of the report admits difficulty in determining the exact total cost. She cites the fact that some funds used to support inaugural activities come from accounts not specifically labeled for inaugural purposes, such as the Department of Homeland Security. The inauguration is designated as a National Special Security Event (NSSE), but no specific mentions of inaugurations exist in the NSSE statutes.

The 2013 report explains Presidential Inaugural Committees in a bit more detail. These committees are the source of the private funding for inaugural events. These committees represent the interests of the President-Elect and they plan and execute most inaugural activities, including opening ceremonies, parades, and other events. The 2009 donations totaled $53,242,568.

SEARCHING SECONDARY SOURCES

Secondary sources, such as journal articles, are excellent sources of historical information from various perspectives. Since all HeinOnline journal content dates back to inception, the Law Journal Library provides researchers with scholarly articles written both with historical perspectives and from within their current context. For instance, a search for “presidential inauguration Ronald Reagan”~15 OR “president inauguration Ronald Reagan”~15 produces more than 40 journal article results, ranging from the early 1980s to 2015. Researchers can read articles written at the time of Reagan’s inauguration, as well as articles that were written more recently and which reflect upon that time in American history.

Screenshot of search results for Reagan inauguration

Sort results by Volume Date (Oldest First) to view results in chronological order. Terms from your search query will be highlighted in yellow, making it easy to see the context in which the terms occur.

For help researching this or any topic in HeinOnline, review this Searching 101 guide.

The HeinOnline support team is also available to answer your questions at (800) 277-6995, and by email or live chat. We look forward to working with you!

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