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Obama / Bush Inauguration Cost Comparison

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Forwarded email compares the alleged cost of Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration to that of G.W. Bush's second inaugural festivities in 2005 and the disparate media reactions to same.

Description: Viral rumor
Circulating since: Jan. 2009
Status: Mostly false (see details below)

Email contributed by Denney, Jan. 22, 2009:

Hypocrisy at its finest -- as only our unbiased media can present it!

All a matter of perspective, I guess...


"Republicans spending $42 million on inauguration while troops Die in unarmored Humvees"

"Bush extravagance exceeds any reason during tough economic times"

"Fat cats get their $42 million inauguration party, Ordinary Americans get the shaft"


"Historic Obama Inauguration will cost only $120 million"

"Obama Spends $120 million on inauguration; America Needs A Big Party"

"Everyman Obama shows America how to celebrate"

"Citibank executives contribute $8 million to Obama Inauguration"

Analysis: Here's what's true in the above text: G.W. Bush received more criticism — mainly from Congressional Democrats, but also from some members of the press — for the "extravagant" cost of his inauguration in 2005 than Barack Obama received for the cost of his in 2009.

The figures cited above are inaccurate and misleading, however. The $42 million cited for Bush, while roughly accurate, doesn't include the cost of security and other incidentals covered by federal and state governments. The $120 million cited for Obama (which is actually a bit on the low side) does include those costs. It's a false comparison.

Traditionally, everything except security, clean-up, and the swearing-in ceremony itself is paid for via private donations. By most estimates, the Bush inaugural committee raised and spent about $42.3 million. At last report, the Obama inaugural committee had raised and spent almost exactly the same amount ("more than $41 million," according to the Associated Press).

Factoring in the rest of the expenditures, in 2005 federal and local governments were tapped for an additional $115 million to cover security, swearing-in, clean-up, and a paid holiday for federal workers on the day of the Bush inauguration. That adds up to a combined total of $157.8 million from both private and government sources.

There's no final tally yet for the Obama inauguration, but given that at least five times as many people attended, security and clean-up costs were surely higher than for the 2005 event. Press estimates currently range around $150 million total, including both private and government expenditures.

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Sources and further reading:

Inauguration Cost Could Top $150 Million
CNN Money, 19 January 2009

Obama Hosting Pricey Party in Dicey Economy
Associated Press, 17 January 2009

Obama's Inauguration Fund-Raising Tops $24 Million
New York Times, 6 January 2009

Big Inauguration Comes with a Big Price Tag
CNN, 20 December 2008

The Second Inauguration of the Second President Bush
CBC News, 20 January 2005

Last updated: 01/23/09

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