The senator overseeing President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony introduced legislation Monday to criminalize scalping tickets to the historic event.
House offices swamped with demand were being limited to just 198 tickets apiece and most had stopped taking requests. Senate offices were expecting a larger allotment … 300-400 each … but they, too, had many more requests than they could handle.
îîThis is going to be a major civic event of our time. Excitement is at an all-time high,'' Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said on the Senate floor. îîPeople are desperate to become part of it ... We could have more than 1.5 million people descend on the nation's capital.''
Feinstein, who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, introduced a bill she aims to speed through the Senate this week that would make it illegal to sell or attempt to sell tickets to the Jan. 20 ceremony.
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A total of 240,000 tickets have been printed, to be distributed by lawmakers to the public free of charge.
It also would be illegal to forge tickets.
Either crime would be a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $100,000 and a year in prison.
îîThis legislation is aimed at stopping those who seek to profit by selling those tickets,'' Feinstein said.
Feinstein, whose office received 8,000 requests in a single day after the Nov. 4 election, said she was working to îîsee if there's any creative way we would be able to obtain more tickets for the Senate.''
Feinstein also has been asking online auction and sales sites not to allow inaugural ticket sales. EBay Inc. announced last week that it would not allow sales on its Web sites, which include StubHub, but tickets were being advertised Monday on craigslist and elsewhere.
Feinstein emphasized that no one has any tickets yet. They won't be distributed to congressional offices until the end of the week before the inauguration, and offices will require in-person pickup with ID.
Feinstein said her office will not give any out until Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration.