Organizers of Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh’s inauguration are asking corporations and individuals for up to $50,000 apiece to bankroll his January inaugural celebration, setting the stage for what could be the city’s priciest mayoral bash ever.
Aides and advisers to Walsh have privately approached corporations and their lobbyists to seek help paying for inaugural events, according to people involved in the discussions who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks. The parties will hail the city’s first new mayor in two decades and offer access to a “private appreciation” event for donors contributing more than $5,000.
A solicitation asking for donations and describing events to celebrate Walsh’s inaugural was circulating among potential donors this week and was obtained by the Boston Globe. A Walsh adviser, however, insisted that it was a draft document that the mayor-elect had not yet approved.
“This ask was premature. We don’t know what we will be asking,” said Walsh spokesman Michael Goldman. “It’s hard to do an ask when you don’t know what the mayor is looking to do.”
A person close to Walsh said the inaugural committee, still in its planning stages, would not take money from political action committees or labor unions. During the campaign, Walsh came under criticism when unions and groups funded by labor spent more than $2 million to help elect him.
The person said the inaugural calendar would likely include events for children and for seniors, and a day of volunteer service.
One government watchdog group called the fund-raising from deep-pocketed interests concerning, but not a departure from recent local and state inaugurals.
“We want money to be limited for those purposes, certainly completely disclosed, and ideally not to come from anybody that does business with the city, just because of potential for more money pouring into the system,” said Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. “Certainly, transparency is a critical piece of it all.”
Goldman said all financial donors to the inauguration would be disclosed. He said no taxpayer dollars will be used for the celebrations.
While the plans are still coming together, the draft version of the fund-raising solicitation included tiered categories for donors.
“Platinum sponsors” — those who contribute the maximum of $50,000 — would receive 20 tickets to the inaugural gala, 10 tickets to the appreciation event, and a public mention of their support on “event signage,” according to a list of “sponsor opportunities.”
The contribution levels and resulting benefits decline on a sliding scale, down to “friend sponsors” who, for $5,000 contributions, receive two tickets to each event and the public recognition on signs.
Newly elected officials frequently turn to corporate sponsors to pay for their inaugural events. Walsh’s committee is also accepting contributions from individuals and “partnerships,” according to the sponsorship document.
Leading up to Governor Deval Patrick’s first inaugural in 2007, Democratic powerbrokers sought donations of up to $50,000 toward a goal of more than $1 million to finance a five-day celebration that took the new governor across the state.
In 2003, Mitt Romney’s three days of inaugural activities cost about $750,000, raised by a similar inaugural committee. Romney’s committee raised about $1.3 million, and he pledged the remainder to charity.
After Mayor Thomas M. Menino was elected to a fourth term in 2005, his inaugural committee raised more than $500,000 from 65 donors to pay for festivities that culminated in a Boston Public Library gala.
A Menino spokeswoman said fund-raising figures from his inauguration after he was first elected in 1993 were no longer available.
In Walsh’s case, local political fund-raisers said, big businesses may be seeking to place themselves in the mayor-elect’s good graces after a campaign during which he was lambasted for being too cozy with labor unions.
Nonprofit inaugural committees are not governed by campaign finance rules and, thus, are not required to disclose donors or hew to limits, and are not required to file paperwork with state campaign finance officials.
Having nearly reached the halfway mark between his Nov. 5 election and Jan. 6 inauguration, Walsh’s transition has proved to be a slow-moving exercise. He has not named a chief of staff, and has said he plans to refine a fund-raising operation that has carried over from the campaign but has not yet done so.
Aides say decisions about details of the inauguration are also still pending.
Since his election Nov. 5, Walsh has continued to deposit checks in his campaign account, and he has also solicited funds for Charlotte Golar Richie, who placed third in the September preliminary election. Richie later endorsed Walsh, and on Nov. 8 she was named a cochairwoman of his transition team, a type of shadow government until Walsh takes office.
Since then, Richie has raised at least $15,000, much of it from people who had previously contributed to Walsh.