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Win a Ticket to the Inauguration

9:48 AM, Jan 6, 2009 • By JIM PREVOR
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Write fast! If you are interested in seeing Barack Obama sworn in as President, the official Presidential Inaugural Committee is conducting an essay contest. Although the real goal is fundraising and the website is vague as to whether anyone who fails to contribute will, in fact, be selected to attend the inauguration, it does clearly say that if you submit an essay here on the subject of "What does this inaugural mean to you," then "…you could still be selected to attend the inauguration." The deadline is midnight, January 8th.

Allowing the official Presidential Inaugural Committee to provide inaugural tickets to those who donate funds or via gimmicks, such as this essay contest, would be protected by a modification made to Senator Dianne Feinstein's bill, which would otherwise ban the sale of inaugural tickets. Her original bill failed to pass supposedly because some senators feared that these Inaugural Committee activities were not protected. Senator Feinstein did secure "voluntary" agreements from eBay and StubHub not to sell the inaugural tickets and has pledged to reintroduce her legislation, now modified to meet objections, in the new Congress.

Maybe some Senator will withhold unanimous consent since the point seems to be that what infuriates Senator Feinstein is not that rich people should be able to buy their way into the inaugural; it is that the money may not go to the politically correct authority. After all, the Presidential Inaugural Committee is itself selling inaugural tickets at $50,000 for a set of four including various balls, meal functions, a concert, etc.

It would be nice if someone actually challenged Senator Feinstein's bill as not going far enough. Beyond tickets sold by the Inaugural committee and reserved for the President-elect and various dignitaries, most tickets are distributed to the public by Senators or Representatives.What Senator Feinstein's bill doesn't deal with is that giving Senators' and Representatives' discretionary ability to distribute favors is inherently corrupting. When you get called for a contribution or other favor, one strongly suspects that if you don't give you won't be attending any inaugurals.

Many who may want tickets don't want to be indebted to a politician. The Blagojevich affair was shocking partly because he seems to have said so much. In dealing with more astute politicians, it can be what is unsaid that is more important. Many a person who would like tickets doesn't want to be indebted to a Senator or Representative. These people never want to get a phone call in which the unspoken fact is that the Senator or Representative once did a favor and is now asking for one in return.

There has been a lot of talk about how the Republicans can win again. One way would be to establish the Republican Party as the one party opposed to making citizens supplicants to their representatives in Washington, D.C.

How about the Republicans calling Senator Feinstein and raising the ante? The people's inauguration should neither be sold to the highest bidder on eBay nor go to the one who has done the most to win a legislator's favor. Why not reserve the needed tickets for the President-elect and for fundraising for the Inaugural Committee and then give the rest out in a national lottery?

Between Blagojevich and now Richardson, the Democrats are getting marred as the party of pay-to-play. Shouldn't Republicans use a national event such as the presidential inauguration to draw a clear distinction?