* USA Today looks at the upcoming presidential inauguration…
The group representing Obama’s home state of Illinois expects to draw more than 2,000 to its ball Saturday night — where it will honor Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Illinois congressman. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, and Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican, are honorary co-chairs.
Dean Franks, a lobbyist for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, is one of four co-chairs of the Illinois State Society’s gala and helped solicit corporate sponsors. He said he avoided seeking any contributions from his association or member companies to avoid appearing to influence LaHood. The companies helping to fund the event are participating “because of their presence in Illinois,” he said. “They can get meetings with these guys whenever they want.”
Corporations helping to underwrite the event include Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plans in Illinois and is the state’s second-largest private employer.
Company spokesman Greg Thompson said Health Care Service also is helping to underwrite inaugural galas for three other states in which it does business, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, as part of the company’s civic engagement.
Company officials have plenty of opportunities to talk to state and federal officials during the year and don’t need to buttonhole policymakers at events, he said. “We’ve been at the table, and we continue to be at the table,” he said.
For many organizations and lawmakers, the inaugural weekend also is a chance to raise campaign cash.
Gov. Pat Quinn, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a contingent from the Illinois General Assembly are expected here this weekend for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. That’s in addition to the Illinois congressional delegation.
Quinn on Saturday will attend the Illinois State Society Inaugural gala–he is an honorary chair of the event–and then moves on to the “Hard Hat Inaugural Ball.”
On Monday, he attends a National Governors’ Association breakfast before the inauguration, which he gets to watch with other governors from a spot on the platform in front of the Capitol. On Monday evening, Quinn will attend an Inaugural Ball.
* The Question(s): Are you going to the inauguration? If so, what will you be doing there? If not, will you watch? Have you ever been to a presidential inauguration? Explain.