Inaugural Hot Tickets

Local Congress-folk are awed and a little disturbed by the fervor of constituents seeking tickets to January 20th’s Presidential Inaugural.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says she’s never seen anything like it– a nearly immediate explosion of inquiries about how to obtain tickets to the swearing-in of America’s first President of color.  Ros-Lehtinen’s office reports well over a thousand ticket requests, the number “growing all the time”. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ office reports 603 people asking for 2000 tickets, as of this morning.

Reps in largely African-American districts, perhaps not surprisingly, are seeing the highest demand.  Spokesmen for Kendrick Meek & Alcee Hastings report requests received soaring over 2000.  Hastings chief of staff, David Goldenberg, said he had three interns going through the day’s requests, as we spoke (he says the photo below shows one of three boxes overflowing with ticket requests).

hastings-box

The problem?  Each Congressional office is likely to receive only about 200 tickets to distribute, though no one seems to have an exact number.  Most offices say they have yet to decide how to allot the scarce tickets, though Wasserman-Schultz’ office thinks “probably a lottery” for requestors who reside in her district, while Ros-Lehtinen’s folks figure it’ll be “first-come, first served” .

The Republican Congresswoman told me she is setting aside some tickets for her now-retired Democratic colleague Carrie Meek.  They were friends in the FL Senate and in Congress.  I did point out that Carrie Meek could probably count on her son Kendrick to come up with tickets.  Ros-Lehtinen laughed, but said she wanted to make sure Carrie was taken care of.

Indeed, the tradition seems to be cross-aisle cooperation on this ticket thing.  Democrats apparently provided extra tickets to Republicans for George W’s inaugurations, but Republicans may be hard-pressed to return the favor this year, given the massive demand.

Indeed, Cong. Hastings, according to his staff, put out feelers to 80 of his Republican colleagues, asking if they might spare more tickets from their allotments.  The response so far– 2 tickets from a GOP committee colleague from Michigan.

Lots of Capitol Hill aides I talked to worry that the ticket frenzy is way overblown. Their major concern is that constituents desperate to “share in history” will get ripped off by people selling Inaugural tickets over the internet, and they argue that there are other, easier ways to enjoy the start of the Obama era in Washington.

The 240,000 tickets to be distributed by members of Congress will get you access to the actual swearing-in at the Capitol, but hundreds of thousands of others will watch the ceremony on giant TV screens along the Capitol Mall– no tickets or lengthy security lines required, possibly a better view.

Hundreds of thousands of others may opt to Tivo the swearing-in and instead get prime viewing spots for the Inaugural Parade, from the Capitol to the White House– again, no tickets required.

About those internet offers of hot Inaugural tickets– the system will be designed to thwart scalping.  The tickets themselves will only be distributed to Congressional offices a few days before the ceremony, and constituents who get the tickets will be required to come to pick up the tickets in person.  In addition, Congress is apparently passing a law making it a crime for any Capitol Hill staffer from making money selling a ticket.

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