Inauguration price tag: $150 million

It is going be some party. When Barack Obama comes to Washington to be sworn into office, the entire nation will be watching - and paying for - the celebration.

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By Catherine Clifford, staff writer
The inauguration of the 44th President of the United States will likely end up costing upwards of $150 million.
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NEW YORK ( -- The total cost of the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States will likely top $150 million by the time the galas and streamers and porta-pots are all cleaned up.

The reason it's hard to know how much this - or any of the other 55 presidential inaugurals - costs is that there's no one entity overseeing all of the related events. The $150 million is an estimate, and it is compiled from other estimates, so the figure is fluid.

But the nation's capital has been preparing for President-elect Barack Obama's arrival and one thing is for sure, the price tag for the celebration is going to be hefty.

The nation's capital is expecting more than 2 million people at the swearing-in ceremony, according to a letter from D.C. area leaders to the federal government. Transportation officials were expecting 10,000 charter buses to enter the District of Columbia, and the district's rail system - the Metro - expects more than 1 million riders.

All the parties: The Presidential Inaugural Committee, which is responsible for the events surrounding the actual ceremony, expects that its budget will run about $45 million, but could edge slightly higher, according to Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for the group.

Among the events sponsored by the committee are Tuesday's inaugural parade and 10 official inaugural balls. It has also paid the Smithsonian Institution $700,000 for its museums to remain open longer and handle the crowds on Inauguration Day.

But the $45 million comes completely from private donations, not the government. The organization is not accepting funds from corporations or lobbyists, said Douglass. In addition to private individual donors, who can give a maximum of $50,000, the committee has been raising money by selling merchandise.

"The President-elect made very clear in the campaign and continued to emphasize that he is committed to ending business as usual and breaking the grip of the special interests," said Douglass.

The ceremony: The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies has a budget of $1.24 million to pay for the actual swearing-in ceremony, according to spokeswoman Carole Florman.

The ceremony happens directly out in front of the U.S. Capitol. The budget, which is $10,000 less than the budget from the 2005 inauguration, is an appropriation, which means it is federal taxpayer money that has been set aside for the event.

There's room for 240,000 people on the Capitol grounds, but the group expects many more people to stand and watch from areas nearby. The budget also pays for an elaborate and traditional luncheon for 220 people, including the new president, that follows the swearing-in ceremony.

Those 240,000 tickets are free, but they are a hot commodity. So incensed by the trafficking in tickets, committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pushed the Senate to pass a bill earlier this week that made it a crime to sell or counterfeit inaugural tickets. The bill provides for a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and imprisonment up to a year.

Another $3.5 million was going to cover the actual construction of the platform in front of the Capitol and the rental of the chairs, according to Stephen Ayers, acting Architect of the Capitol.

Furthermore, the U.S. Capitol Police has budgeted $1.5 million to pay for staffing events around the ceremony, according to assistant chief Dan Nichols.

Transportation, security: Once you have the parties and the ceremony, the tab has just started growing. The taxpayers really end up paying for the various law enforcement officials on duty.

The total cost of the inauguration to the federal government is $49 million, according to Abigail Tanner, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget.

That $49 million includes a $15 million appropriation which has already been appropriated to the District of Columbia to help pay for the inauguration expenses. It also includes money to pay for the Secret Service during the inauguration and the military personnel during the parade following the swearing-in ceremony.

Meanwhile, the governors of Virginia and Maryland, and the mayor of Washington sent a letter to the federal government estimating that the inauguration was going to cost them a combined $75 million - $47 million for the District alone - for transportation and law enforcement.

The District may be eligible for more federal money beyond the $15 million appropriated. President Bush announced Tuesday that the District was in a state of emergency, making more funding available for "emergency protective measures that are undertaken to save lives and protect public health and safety."

-- CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett and CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this report.  To top of page

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