The presidential inaugural is a time to celebrate democratic ideals – and a cash cow to underwrite Democrat Al Franken’s battle to oust incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman.
On Sunday, Franken hosted an “inaugural brunch” at D.C’s tony Willard Hotel featuring entertainment by the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and Mickey Hart.
The price of admission, according to USA Today: $1,000 to $12,300 per plate.
Sen. Harry Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin served on the host committee for the soiree. It was Franken’s first trip to the capital since shortly after the election, when Reid gave him a tour of Capitol Hill.
The mood was quite different on that occasion, however: Franken was trailing Coleman by 225 votes at the time, and was on his way to New York for a George Soros fundraiser to offset the expensive recount process.
Now, the recount has ended with Franken awarded 225 vote lead, Coleman is relegated to an uphill legal challenge, and the latest FEC filings show Franken was sitting atop an $880,00 war chest even before launching his effort to cash in on the excitement and goodwill generated by the inaugural.
So it’s no surprise the mood at this latest iteration of Mr. Franken goes to Washington was reportedly festive, although it’s hard to be certain about that: Reporters were banned from the hoity-toity event.
Franken’s PR folks are saying he’s in Washington to attend President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony. But the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a different story: They say Franken has been raising cash and strategizing with top Democratic leaders such as Howard Dean over his next move in the court battle.
When asked how much money the event earned, Franken told the Star-Tribune: “It costs a lot of money. I’m not sure the specific amount.”
Luke Friedrich, a Coleman spokesman, warned that, “The money will be used to try to short-circuit Minnesota election law. Nothing more, nothing less.”
The lawsuit to review whether the recount process was properly conducted is scheduled to begin Jan. 26. But some Franken supporters are acting like the contest is already over.
Sam Kaplan, a Minneapolis attorney who sits on Obama’s national finance committee, told the Star-Tribune: “It’s so wonderful to add another person to the Barack Obama team.”
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