The senator overseeing President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony is writing to Internet sites like eBay asking them not to sell scalped inauguration tickets.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is also writing a bill that would make it a federal crime to scalp tickets to the historic event to be held Jan. 20 in Washington.
Feinstein, who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said she foresees overwhelming demand for the 240,000 available tickets and has heard reports of them being sold for as much as $40,000 online.
The tickets are supposed to be free to the public and distributed through congressional offices. The offices won't get the tickets until shortly before the inauguration, to try to prevent scalping.
Norton To D.C.: Don't Call Me
Tired of taking phone calls from friends wanting to rent a room (or just a couch) for Obama's inauguration in January?
You're not alone.
Unable to keep up with the barrage of phone calls and e-mails, District Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's office has stopped taking names for potential tickets for the inauguration. The office took more than 3,000 names before calling it quits.
The office stopped taking names Friday night and posted a statement on its Web site:
"Because of the high demand for tickets, this office can no longer take names. We are in discussions with President-Elect Barack Obama’s office and other officials on how to best accommodate the high demand. Check here for details in the future. Again, please do not call or e-mail our office concerning inauguration events."
Only 240,000 tickets to the inauguration will be printed and relatively few will be available to members of Congress, Holmes said on her Web site. She also said fraudulent Web sites and individuals are "selling" free inaugural tickets.
"I share the excitement and enthusiasm of my constituents, but I am concerned that even the few who obtain tickets will not be able to get through the crowds at the Mall," Norton said. "The only people sure to get a view of the parade and the swearing-in are the people who watch it on television in the comfort of their homes."
So now what?
Montgomery County Phones Ringing
Apparently the phones have been ringing at the offices of the Montgomery County executive and the Montgomery County council, even though neither office gets tickets. The office said that Montgomery County residents looking for tickets should contact the offices of their representatives in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Congressional offices that represent Montgomery County have advised that the following is the best way to contact them for information about inauguration tickets:
- Senator Benjamin Cardin: Go to the special section on his Web site at: http://cardin.senate.gov/services/inaug.cfm
- Senator Barbara Mikulski: Go to the special section on her Web site at: http://mikulski.senate.gov/Inauguration/index.cfm
- Congressman Roscoe Bartlett: Call his office in the District of Columbia at 202-225-2721.
- Congresswoman Donna Edwards: Contact her office via e-mail at: 4MDtours@mail.house.gov.
- Congressman Chris Van Hollen: Call his office in the District of Columbia at 202-225-5341.
Thousands of Calls Received in Virginia
“As of this morning, we have received in excess of 15,000 requests for the inaugural swearing-in ceremony in January," said Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's communications director Jessica Smith in a statement released Monday. "If this year is consistent with years past, our office will likely receive about 500 tickets. Space is limited and we have an extensive waiting list, but we will do our best to accommodate as many Virginians as possible.”
Virginians were encouraged to visit www.webb.senate.gov for more detailed information and to sign up on the waiting list for swearing-in tickets.
Inaugural How-to Guide
Tickets to the inauguration ceremony are free and distributed through the newly elected and re-elected members of Congress in January 2009. Members of the public interested in attending should contact their senator or congressman to request a ticket. Congressional offices will get the tickets about a week before the swearing-in ceremony in January; in-person pickup is required.
Be wary of any Web site or broker claiming to sell tickets.
"Any Web site or ticket broker claiming that they have inaugural tickets is simply not telling the truth," Howard Gantman, staff director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, said in a statement on the panel's Web site. "Tickets for the swearing-in ... are all provided through members of Congress, and the president-elect and vice president-elect through the Presidential Inaugural Committee. We urge the public to view any offers of tickets for sale with great skepticism."
A number of groups automatically gets tickets, such as members of Congress, former lawmakers, Supreme Court justices, Medal of Honor winners and of course, the president-elect, vice president-elect and their families. The remaining tickets are distributed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Most people will have to stand through the ceremony at the Capitol, as there are just 30,000 seats.
Bands seeking to march in the parade need to apply to the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee by 5 p.m. EST on Friday. Applicants can apply either by mail or through the Web, with photographs and audio/video recordings optional. The application calls for a descriptive narrative. The committee prefers online applications.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee, the organization representing the president-elect, will make the selection on the parade participants.
Tickets to at least one inaugural ball are already sold out. The $200-per-person tickets to the Hawaii State Society Inaugural Ball at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel are gone. The new president and the first lady typically make the rounds of the nearly dozen balls in D.C., and the Hawaiian-born Obama is certain to stop by this one.