Lee raised $2.5M, spent $1.8M on inauguration

Friday, February 15, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 7

NASHVILLE (AP) — Prominent businesses, top Republicans and political action committees helped Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee raise nearly $2.5 million for his inauguration last month.

According to inaugural figures requested by The Associated Press, the new Republican governor spent almost $1.8 million for the high-profile event. The list shows hundreds of donors ranging from prominent politicians, Lee administration figures, top companies, political action committees and more.

Almost 110 of them gave the top amount allowed, $7,500.

Spanning a variety of industries, some notable donors include Amazon, Microsoft, Vanderbilt University, CoreCivic, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Nissan, Volkswagen, Bristol Motor Speedway, the Tennessee Titans, FedEx, Jack Daniel's and others.

Republican leaders chipped in too, including Reps. Chuck Fleischmann, Phil Roe, Scott DesJarlais and a number of state lawmakers. Lee received checks from figures in his new administration as well, including Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter and Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano. He even received an $800 donation from Democratic Senate Caucus Chairman Raumesh Akbari.

Lee finished with more than $441,000 left in his inaugural fund.

The fundraising haul for Lee's inaugural narrowly topped the $2.4 million raised for former Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's 2011 inauguration, when Haslam spent almost $1.1 million.

After he was re-elected, Haslam raised about $1.4 million and spent $1.9 million for his second swearing-in in 2015. That included a $350,000 to the Tennessee State Museum Foundation and $250,000 to the Tennessee Residence Foundation, which helps maintain the governor's mansion.

Lee replaced Haslam officially during his inauguration Jan. 19. The event was moved indoors due to soggy weather.

The Republican's most expensive expenditures were spent on securing the inauguration ball location, spending a total of $330,245 at Nashville's Music City Convention Center for venue and catering costs.

Meanwhile, $72,600 was spent on entertainment — which included performances by country singers Luke Bryan and Wynonna Judd. The report does not specify specifically how much was spent on each performer.

Nearly $64,000 was spent on inauguration gifts — mostly on cups with the governor's seal — from an Antioch-based company.