Lunching with Melania: Donald Trump Offers Splashy Perks in Return for Inaugural Donations

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By Emily Zanotti | 3:09 pm, November 30, 2016

Donald Trump says he’s going to ditch the Obama legacy, but he’s taking a page out of the current President’s handbook when it comes to financing his inauguration—and he’s significantly raising the price tag.

For a minimum $1 million donation to the Presidential Inauguration Committee, donors will receive tickets to a “leadership luncheon” featuring potential Cabinet appointees, members of the Republican House and Senate leadership, and perhaps an appearance by the President-elect himself.

They’ll also get tickets to a dinner with Mike Pence and his wife, a “candlelight” dinner with the future First Family, tickets to a “victory reception,” tickets to a concert (with a fireworks display!), seating for the parade, tickets to the Inaugural ball, and a “ladies luncheon” with Melania. They may get tickets to the swearing-in ceremony, but those are generally reserved for Congress and the public.

It may seem extreme, but Donald Trump is only following tradition – making sure that the best parties and top-notch tickets to Inaugural festivities are reserved for those willing to open their wallets wide.

President Barack Obama capped donations for his first Inauguration at $50,000 and refused to take donations from corporate sponsors. But by 2012, he’d lifted sanctions, and raised $45 million from individuals and major companies like Microsoft—and he offered very similar VIP packages. Obama’s menu, however, didn’t include an option to give more than a million. Trump has significantly expanded on his offerings.

Top tier ($750,000 to $1 million) Obama donors received prime parade seating, lavish dinners with the President and his Cabinet, a private meeting with top Presidential advisers and even a similar “candlelight celebration” at the National Building Museum.

Trump inaugural sponsors also get “premiere” accommodations at the Inaugural hotel in addition to seating and food —though it’s not yet clear whether that will be Trump’s own DC property. There was a contest to win rooms at Trump International Hotel for the inauguration, and prices there for the Inauguration weekend range from $1,000 per night to $500,000 for a full “Inauguration weekend package.”

Trump, like Obama, has said that individuals and corporations are welcome to donate to his Presidential Inauguration Committee, but lobbyists are prohibited from picking up one of the packages. The committee hopes to raise somewhere in the ballpark of $70 million to cover most of the Inaugural expenses. Taxpayers will pick up the bill for any official needs, like security and swearing-in ceremony logistics.