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Wealthy lawyers prop up Obama celebrations
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Wealthy lawyers prop up Obama celebrations

New York lawyers pulled out their wallets to help offset the cost of Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. The New York Law Journal reported that the inaugural committee running the event…

New York lawyers pulled out their wallets to help offset the cost of Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.

The New York Law Journal reported that the inaugural committee running the event received more than $US$42.1 million ($64.2 million) from private donors.

Barry H. Berke, a lawyer from New York-based firm Kramer Levin Neftalls & Frankel, was found to have personally donated $U$10,000, and collected a further $US40,000 for colleagues and friends.

Berke said he made the contribution because Obama’s inauguration was “not just the election of the first black president but someone who is bringing a whole new generation into government”.

Meanwhile partner John P Coffey from Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman said he made his donation of $US50,000 to help pay for the inauguration because President Obama refuses to accept contributions from interest groups.

The New York Law Journal said its figures were taken from Public Citizen – a non-profit consumer advocacy organisation representing consumer interests in Congress.

Public Citizen reports that 80 per cent of the total $U35.3 million raised for the Presidential Inauguration Committee came from just 211 individuals – many of whom called themselves “bundlers” because of their work in collecting additional funding from colleagues and friends.

Prominent Wall St “bundlers” also included Mark Gilbert, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers who raised $US185,000, and Kobi Brinson, senior vice president and assistant general counsel at Wachovia, who raised $US35,000.

A government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, Craig Holman, said that many donors simply wanted to be part of history. “But donors and bundlers who represent special interests with business pending before the government and who dole out five-figure checks to the inaugural committee usually want a seat at the table with the new administration.”

– Angela Priestley

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