Got Cash, Connections? Watch Obama's Inaugural Parade in Style
Looking for the perfect spot to watch the inaugural parade? A place where you can stay warm, have a cocktail in one hand, a gourmet hors d'oeuvre in the other and still have a great view of the presidential procession and all its revelry?
Consider it done. As long as you're a $50,000 donor to the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
The committee has rented out Central and TenPenh restaurants, which are adjacent to each other at the corner of 10th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, where its top contributors can stay nice and toasty (or get toasty) as they watch the parade and maybe even see the newly anointed 44th president of the United States waving from his limousine.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee lists the event as a "swearing-in and parade watch party" on a finance event schedule sent to its $50,000 donors. (Top donors will also be treated to multiple concerts, a gospel brunch, inaugural balls and dinner with the Obamas and the Bidens on Monday night).
But, believe it or not, you don't need to give 50k to Obama's inaugural committee to watch his presidential parade in luxury style. All you need to do is start sweet-talking your lawyer and lobbyist friends who have plum office space along the parade route.
If they have a view of the parade, guaranteed they're having a parade watch party. Sure, most of the events will be scaled back in light of the recession. But history is history, and an awesome view is an awesome view.
Among those throwing a big parade watch bash is the law firm Vinson and Elkins, whose Washington office is located in the historic Willard Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Among the firm's partners is former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk, who Obama has chosen to be his U.S. trade representative.
Trial lawyer Mark Tuohey, also a partner at Vinson Elkins, says this will be the third or fourth inaugural parade watch party for the firm, whose D.C. office, he boasts, has "an incredible balcony" with "a great view of the parade."
This year they're expecting 600 to 700 people, assuming they can actually get there given the record throngs of people expected to descend on Washington for Obama's inauguration.
The catered event will be "a little more modest" this year given the economic crisis, Tuohey says, but "this is a huge and historic event and we, like other firms, want to celebrate it."
Davis & Harman, a law and lobbying firm, which has a balcony on the top floor of the Willard Office Building, is having its usual inauguration watch party. The bash is co-hosted by CME Group (formerly the Chicago Mercantile Exchange), one of the firm's biggest clients.
One of the firm's partners, Tad Davis (a Gator, and author of the "Horse Owners and Breeders Tax Handbook"), tells us, there has "definitely been an emphasis on keeping the cost down." In past years the lucrative firm tented its rooftop balcony and put up glass panels in addition to heat lamps.
This year, it'll be an open-air tent, Davis says.
Still, we have a feeling the 250 or so guests expected at the party will feel plenty pampered compared to the folks packed like sardines on the chilly streets below, craning their necks for a glimpse at history - without the comfort of catered food and cocktails.
The foreclosure disaster isn't even keeping the Financial Services Roundtable, many of whose members took bailout money from the government, from hosting an inaugural parade watch party. The group, which is located in the same building as the restaurant TenPenh, is expecting about 400 guests.
Scott Talbott, the Roundtable's senior vice president of government affairs, says the only concerns are security and weather. To be sure they can pull off the party, organizers plan to be in the office by 4 a.m. and the caterers by 5 a.m. to avoid getting trapped in security lines before Obama's late morning swearing-in, he says.
Recession or no recession, there's still celebrating to be done.
"The inauguration is a historic occasion," Talbott says. "Our event celebrates this in a very low-key way given the economy."
Mary Ann Akers
January 9, 2009; 4:05 PM ET
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