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Published: Wednesday, 12/24/2008

Requests for inaugural tickets flood lawmakers

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As many children wait anxiously tonight for Santa Claus to bring presents, many adults planning to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama anxiously await federal lawmakers' announcements of ticket recipients for the historic event.

The only way to obtain a ticket for the inauguration ceremony is through U.S. representatives or senators, who during the week leading up to the Jan. 20 event will distribute 250,000 free tickets.

Federal lawmakers say after making their lists and checking them twice, they will call individuals who requested tickets this week and next week to inform them whether their Inauguration Day wishes are granted or not.

Each House member receives at least 198 tickets to hand out, while senators distribute a minimum of 393.

Steve Fought, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), said the congressman's office has received more than 3,000 requests, and deciding who will receive tickets has been complicated.

"We've talked about a first-come, first-served basis and having a lottery. We've also talked about looking and seeing who has expressed interest in the past, before Election Day," he said. "We don't even know when to start the clock, because we had people expressing interest as far back as when [Mr. Obama] won the Iowa Caucuses."

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and George Voinovich (R., Ohio) used lotteries to determine who among their applicants will receive inauguration tickets.

"We took requests for tickets up through Dec. 15 The winners will be able to pick up their tickets from our office in Washington, D.C., the day before the inauguration," said Meghan Dubyak, press secretary for Mr. Brown. "The lottery was conducted last week and everyone who requested tickets is being contacted either by phone or by mail about the outcome. That will be conducted over the next few weeks. We have received requests for more than 30,000 tickets; it may take some time."

David Popp, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green), whose district has not voted for a Democratic congressman in decades, said even the staunch conservative congressman has received an estimated 150 requests for about 400 tickets. "We simply are going on a first-come, first-served basis," Mr. Popp said. "We decided that was the most fair way to handle this process."

The only other way to pursue tickets is by donating $50,000 to Mr. Obama's Presidential Inauguration Committee, which is offering inauguration tickets to some of the ceremony's biggest financial supporters, including such celebrities as Steven Spielberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, and Halle Berry.

"Our finance department is, to larger donors, providing tickets to the event," said Chris Mather, a committee spokesman. "You get tickets to inaugural events. You could get tickets to a ball, but there is no guarantee in the fund-raising package that you get a ticket to the actual inauguration ceremony."

But as local authorities in Washington and the Secret Service prepare for an influx of more than 2 million people for the inauguration, Mr. Fought said lack of a ticket will not deter many who are determined to witness history, nor should it.

"Most of the people will be watching the ceremony on JumboTron Even people lucky enough to get tickets to the ceremony might have a better view with the JumboTron than they will with their own eyes," he said. "We're concerned about disappointing people and not being able to honor their requests, but people who are there to be a part of and to honor history will be there anyhow."

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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