Inauguration Black Market Tickets Raise Dilemma, Stir Action

PHOTO: With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009.

If you're still in the market for a free ticket to the inauguration swearing-in ceremony, it is going to cost you.

The tickets are supposed to be distributed free of charge by congressional offices, but online scalpers are giving would-be attendees the option to shell out up to $4,300 on Craigslist and eBay.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, announced Thursday that his office would be working with eBay and Craigslist to remove listings for black market tickets.

"This year's presidential inaugural ceremonies are not for sale," Schumer said in a statement. "This is a chance for people from all 50 states to celebrate our democracy, not for ticket scalpers to make a quick buck."

A spokesperson for eBay confirmed the auction site had removed listings for inauguration tickets.

"The tickets that were up for sale for President Obama's inauguration have been removed from eBay," said eBay spokesperson Amanda Miller. "These listings were in violation of our ticket policy."

The original packaged deals included a range of events starting with single event admissions, to combinations of tickets to the inauguration ceremony, presidential parade route and the official Inaugural Black Tie Ball invitations, complete with transportation and accommodations.

Constituents nationwide were able to receive inauguration tickets for free by contacting their district representatives and adding their names to a ticket lottery system. Although this method attempts to create a fair way for all people to be able to view history in action, it does not always work out in the constituents' favor.

Supply and demand causing exorbitant prices for popular events should not come as a surprise. But the Presidential Inauguration is a historically public event and the tickets are technically supposed to be free, so black market sales of these tickets creates some ethical issues.

Those who were lucky enough to win placement through the lottery are technically free to do whatever they choose with their allotment. However, according to the congressional committee, winners will be asked to sign a document in which they promise not to sell any awarded tickets.

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"Any constituent who wins tickets in the lottery that my office holds is required to pledge not to scalp the ticket to turn a profit," reads a statement from Schumer. "When the tickets are released this year, I'd encourage my colleagues in the House and Senate to take similar measures to discourage ticket holders from using those tickets to make a quick buck."

A Craigslist seller going by the name 'Obama Tickets' cites tough economic times as the reason for why he disregarded the pledge.

"A man has to provide for his family," he says.

Online ticket marketplace StubHub reflects Schumer's sentiment. StubHub representative Glenn Lehrman said the company was "not permitting the resale of [inaugural] events." This statement comes after Ticketmaster mistakenly sold out of Inaugural Ball tickets before they even went on sale.

Some constituents have been adding their names to the lottery as early as two months in advance only to come out ticketless.

"My friend and I requested two [tickets] each a few months ago," said Georgetown University student Cory Benavente. "She was selected for one, and I didn't win any."

There's no official monitoring system to track whether a ticket has been scalped, but individuals with tickets will go through security checkpoints when they arrive for the viewing.

The lack of recipient tracking creates a gap between having people pledge not to resell awarded lottery tickets and incentivizing recipients to keep their promise. Without a way to track the allotted tickets, it is difficult to make the pledge as honorable as possible.

Reports of ticket scalping have just started trickling in over the last few days, the committee said, and it is already asking congressional members to encourage honor code policies. This same situation occurred during the 2009 inauguration, but according to Craigslist seller' Obama Tickets, "This time around [selling tickets] is harder, not as many people are interested."

The inauguration parade can also be viewed from non-ticketed areas.

The distribution date for inauguration ceremony tickets has not yet been announced.

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