HARRISBURG — Labor unions, law firms, lobbyists, and big energy companies are among dozens of donors who have kicked in more than $1.7 million to help pay for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s inauguration events Tuesday, according to information disclosed by the governor’s inaugural committee.
And that number is only expected to grow, organizers said, as donations continue to pour in. For Wolf’s first inauguration, sponsors paid $2.7 million.
The majority of that money will be used to underwrite the evening bash Wolf will host at the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex, a celebration that will feature Pennsylvania themes, food, and artists, said Karissa Hand, spokesperson for the inaugural committee, which is organizing the event.
Hand said some of the donations also will be used to reimburse the state’s Department of General Services for helping to stage the swearing-in ceremony for Wolf, scheduled for noon Tuesday outside the east wing rotunda of the Capitol.
As of Monday, there still was not a final price tag on the event.
“It is still ongoing,” said Hand, “and we are still determining our costs.”
She added: “It is a goal of the committee that taxpayer money is not used on inaugural festivities.”
Governors have been leaning on private donations to bankroll inaugural festivities for years, hoping to stave off inevitable criticism that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to fund the quadrennial event, which often includes private receptions along with the public oath-taking.
Left unsaid, however, is that many donors often want something from state government, whether contracts or public policies that are favorable to them. Wolf’s inaugural team, much like the ones that served previous governors, rejected any notion that such donations sway decision-making.
Still, Wolf has posted his donors, and the amounts they have given, online — a major departure from past governors, who often held that list secret until after the events were over.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s inaugural committee in 2011 declined requests for a list of corporate sponsors in the weeks leading up to the inauguration. It became public after donors were listed on the inaugural program handed out at his inaugural ball.
And in 2007, Gov. Ed Rendell’s committee told reporters that sponsors were being listed on the inaugural program, but that the amounts they donated would not be publicly available until several weeks after the event, according to published reports at the time.
Wolf’s 2019 committee capped donations at $50,000, with eight of the 129 (and growing) donors hitting that threshold. They include interests as disparate as the union representing Pennsylvania’s teachers to natural gas exploration and pipeline transport company EQT Corp.
Unions collectively were some of the more generous donors, giving at least $365,000. But law firms, energy companies, and health-care businesses also cut big checks: Law firms kicked in at least $140,000; energy companies at least $205,000; and the health-care sector at least $90,000.
Some of Wolf’s biggest individual contributors included real estate developers Jack Piatt and Israel Roizman. Each gave $25,000.
Tuesday’s festivities are a big event in Harrisburg; streets are cordoned off and the Capitol virtually shuts down for the swearing-in ceremonies for Wolf and his second-in-command, Lt. Gov.-elect John Fetterman.
Fetterman is expected to take the oath of office in the late morning in the state Senate. After that, legislative leaders, former governors, and other elected officials will file outside to the back of the Capitol, where Wolf will take the stage and be sworn in for his second and last four-year term.
Later in the day, there will be an open house at the governor’s residence about a mile from the Capitol. (Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf do not live there; they opted to stay in their home in Mount Wolf, about a 30-minute drive south in York County, when Wolf was first elected in 2014.)