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Not-So-Big Bucks for Kennedy Dinner

President Obama speaks on behalf of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate at the Ritz-Carlton on Wednesday night. (Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

We know the Kennedys are money magnets, but still couldn't believe that Wednesday's dinner for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate featured tables selling for -- wait for it -- $1 million.

Drat! Turns out that rumor wasn't true, although most reports of the exclusive evening with President Obama included the stratospheric amount. "I couldn't fathom where that came from," institute president Peter Meade told us Thursday.

Well, we can: Several of the 240 guests at the private thank-you dinner have already ponied up a million or more for the late senator's pet project: a center on the University of Massachusetts campus dedicated to the history and role of the Senate.

"His legacy as a mentor, who not only taught so many young senators, including myself, but inspired so many young people and young staffers, some who entered public service because of Teddy, others who -- because of him -- just plain refused to leave," said Obama, who was interrupted by laughter. " ... There is no greater tribute we could offer him than to make the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate a reality."

The ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton was thick with VIPs: Kennedy's widow, Vicki, and his children; Caroline Kennedy and her husband, Ed Schlossberg; Cabinet secretaries Eric Holder, Hilda Solis, Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano; Sens. Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Carl Levin, Paul Kirk and John Kerry (who recently slipped $20.million for the institute into a defense bill); Speaker Nancy Pelosi; ABC's Charlie Gibson, who served as emcee; and deep-pocket donors from the health-9care industry, law firms and labor unions.

Meade said fundraising began before Kennedy's brain cancer was diagnosed, but donations understandably flowed in last year: $40 million of the $100 million goal has already been raised. Groundbreaking is expected next year, with the opening slated for 2012.

By The Reliable Source  |  October 16, 2009; 1:04 AM ET
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NewsBusters: ABC Anchor Charles Gibson Emcees Big-Money Fundraiser for Edward Kennedy Institute

Posted by: StewartIII | October 19, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

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