A lavish inauguration for Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was pulled off thanks to $4.7 million from private contributors, including Wal-Mart and the owner of the San Antonio Spurs, according to a list of donors released Friday.
A blowout ball headlined by country superstars Lady Antebellum made the January inauguration likely the most expensive of 2015 in the U.S., and the same wealthy donors who built Abbott's record-setting campaign bankroll picked up most of the check.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was the biggest contributor at $125,000. Alice Walton, the heiress of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail chain, was among Abbott's most generous campaign donors.
Wal-Mart this week sued Texas in federal court over a state law that does not allow publicly traded companies to sell hard liquor. Other six-figure contributors included AT&T Inc. and grocery chain H-E-B, which gave $100,000 apiece.
In a statement, inauguration committee chairman Ardon Moore gave thanks for "a historic celebration honoring Texas's new era of visionary leadership."
Inauguration events also feted Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was sworn in shortly before Abbott. One of Patrick's first decisions afterward was announcing "citizen advisory" panels of wealthy businessmen who will guide Texas lawmakers on writing legislation, which watchdog groups condemned as a favor to special interests.
Some of Patrick's panel members also footed the bill for the inauguration. They include Fort Worth businessman Robert Albritton ($25,000) and oil magnate S. Javaid Anwar ($50,000).
Not all the money was kept.
The committee donated $25,000 from Western Rim Property Services after The Dallas Morning News revealed this month that company Chairman Marcus Hiles had pleaded guilty to domestic violence in Las Vegas in 2013. The money was given to the Texas Council on Family Violence and the Family Crisis Center.
Patrick and Abbott have previously said they would donate the more than $700,000 that Hiles gave to their campaigns to services for abuse victims. Hiles' attorney, Lawrence Friedman, told the newspaper his client disputes the police version of the incident and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor to avoid going to trial on a felony.
The contributions exceeded the $4 million goal that inauguration organizers had set. Other festivities included a performance by country star Pat Green, a barbecue on the Capitol lawn that featured four tons of brisket, a parade and an F-16 flyover.
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