ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf Report: Say what you will about the laws of the open market in these days of Wall Street, insurance, home loan, and (maybe) auto industry bailouts. If the government is going to get involved where those industries fail, why not get involved in the Presidential Inauguration ticket business too.
Where there’s limited supply, demand rises. And what are supposed to be the choicest free seats to the inauguration were supposed to be doled out free by lawmakers, while many more, some guess 1.5 million, less-lucky people will watch along the National Mall.
And around the business of ticketing the inauguration, a cottage industry has sprung up. Some online sites have already banned the sale of tickets. There are seven security measures implanted in the tickets themselves. The members of Congress who get the tickets are inventing ways (raffles) to appear fair in doling the tickets out.
But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on the Inaugural Ceremony, wants to go a step further. She took to the Senate floor Monday and announced legislation she is writing that would make the sale of the tickets illegal. Selling them would saddle a scalper with a "class A" misdemeanor, a fine of up to $100K, and up to a year in jail.
"We’ve all read the news reports tickets bid on the Internet for $5,000 a piece, some as high as $40,000 each," said Feinstein on the Senate floor. "And 15 to 20 sites today are selling tickets they do not have and will not have unless somehow some way they obtain them. I find it unconscionable."
Feinstein continued, "These tickets are supposed to be free for people, for the volunteers who gave up their weekends walking miles door-to-door to encourage voters to town out to the polls — turn out to the polls on election day. for members of the African American community to see one of their own take the oath of office for the highest office in the land, for schoolchildren to witness history, and for the American public to watch this affirmation of our constitution. This peaceful transition from one administration to another. this is going to be a major civic event of our time."
Its unclear if Feinstein’s tough on scalping approach will catch on. Senators and Congressmen from pre-November 8 Congress are still the nation’s lawmakers and they are in Washington this week for a lame duck session to consider a bailout for the auto industry and extending unemployment benefits and, if they add Sen. Feinstein’s scalping law to their agenda and pass it, President Bush, whose seat at the inauguration is guaranteed, could sign it into law before he hands off the baton.