Blunt wants invitation lists from all legislators for inaugural

Friday, December 3, 2004

Democrats have balked at the idea, complaining names and addresses could be compiled into a massive fund-raising list.

By David A. Lieb ~ The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Elected officials wanting to invite guests to governor-elect Matt Blunt's inaugural party are being asked to pay $2.50 per invitation and supply him the guests' addresses and phone numbers.

The rules have some Democrats complaining -- both about the cost and the potential boon for Blunt from compiling what could be used as a massive political fund-raising list.

"It's a heck of a scheme to be able to get the political mailing lists of every Democrat and Republican legislator and statewide officeholder," senator-elect Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, said Thursday.

A Blunt spokesman denied any political intentions.

The official invitations are costly, and the state budget includes no appropriation for the inaugural. Plus, mailing the invitations from the inaugural committee -- instead of through each politicians' office -- should be more efficient, said John Hancock, a Republican consultant helping organize Blunt's Jan. 10 inaugural.

"It's not going to be used for donors, and we'll be happy to make that clear," Hancock said. "The purpose of having the list is, in the past, people have gotten six and seven invitations, and we're hoping to avoid that."

Just the same, some Democrats are saying "no thanks."

Graham said he will print and mail his own invitations to an estimated 1,000 people.

House Minority Leader Jeff Harris said Democrats plan to have a private company print invitations -- at a cost of about 22 cents each -- and then mail the invitations themselves. Harris said he, too, was troubled by the potential for Blunt's inaugural committee "to be compiling some sort of massive campaign list."

"Our goal is to do this in the most cost-effective way that will preserve the privacy of our family, friends and supporters," said Harris, of Columbia.

Besides attending the governor's inaugural party, many legislators also host receptions in their Capitol offices. All of the inaugural activities are free and open to public. The invitations are merely a formality, and a way of thanking supporters.

Hancock said Blunt's official invitations will include a schedule of events and commemorative tickets to a prayer service, the swearing-in ceremony and the inaugural ball (although no tickets are actually required to attend). Also included will be an RSVP request, which will be used to gauge how much coffee and how many desserts to order, Hancock said.

Blunt is promising a "traditional inauguration" that will cost significantly less than the $1 million party thrown by Democrat Bob Holden four years ago. Events are to begin the evening before with a private prayer service at Westminster College in Fulton.

In contrast, Holden's inaugural eve festivities included a special theatrical production at Lincoln University that traced Missouri's history with narration by actor Tony Randall. On inauguration day, Holden threw four parties -- one for children at a Jefferson City hotel, two under heated tents erected on the Capitol's front lawn, plus the traditional ball inside the Capitol -- and capped the night with a fireworks show.

Blunt's inauguration day schedule includes another prayer service in the morning -- this one at Jefferson City's First Baptist Church -- plus the standard parade, public greeting reception and evening Capitol ball.

"It is our intention to hold a dignified, traditional inauguration worthy of the citizens of Missouri," Blunt said in a statement.

Blunt spokesmen declined to provide a cost estimate, but "it's a safe assumption that it will be significantly less than the previous inaugural," said Paul Sloca, a spokesman for Blunt's gubernatorial transition office.

Holden's inauguration included about $120,000 in state expenses, with the rest of the $1 million bash covered through privation donations that Holden raised after the fact.

Sloca said Blunt plans to hold down his inaugural costs by using thousands of volunteers and as many state-owned materials -- things like bunting and chairs -- as possible.

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