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Requests pouring in for inaugural tickets

Lawmakers' offices are swamped with demand. Legislation may outlaw scalping passes to the gala.

November 12, 2008|TIMES WIRE SERVICES

As the price skyrockets for an ostensibly free ticket to Barack Obama's inaugural swearing-in -- and as federal legislation to outlaw their sale looms -- questions remain about how to legally obtain the tickets.

Members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, who host the big swearing-in ceremony, say the only way to obtain a real ticket is by contacting your local congressional representative, each of whom will be given tickets to the Jan. 20 event to distribute free the day before.

Some members of Congress, who typically get several hundred tickets to pass out, have received thousands of requests. The office of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), for example, told the Washington Post that it had fielded 40,000 requests as of Monday.

Depending on your congressional district, there will almost certainly be more requests than tickets.

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) has gotten 8,000 requests but hasn't decided how to divvy the tickets up.

"There's a possibility we'll have enough for everyone," Davis' executive personal assistant, Clayton Boyd, told the Chicago Tribune.

Some lawmakers have automated request forms on their websites. Others ask that constituents e-mail requests. Some suggest they'll award tickets by lottery.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the inaugural committee, suggested that people think carefully before traveling to Washington, warning that hotel space is limited and temperatures on Inauguration Day could be "very cold."

Feinstein plans to introduce a bill this month that would make scalping the tickets a misdemeanor.

Meantime, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., is urging Obama's staff to add inaugural events away from the National Mall to give more people a chance to join the celebrations.

But there is one niche in the upcoming inaugural that's actually seeking participants: If you want to march in the inaugural parade, applications are being taken by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee.

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