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Senate Cracks Down On Inaugural Scalping After GOP Aide Nabbed

UPDATE, 10:47 p.m. ET: The Senate Tuesday night passed legislation to criminalize the sale of inaugural ticket scalping, just hours after the Sleuth revealed that a former House GOP aide was hawking tickets on the Internet.

As the Associated Press reports, the Senate unanimously approved the bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Now the bill goes to the House.

The Sleuth's posting from earlier today follows:

Selling inauguration tickets isn't illegal, not yet anyway. But it was still embarrassing for one former congressional aide who now works at a powerful lobbying firm when she was caught this week trying to sell tickets to Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony for big bucks.

The former aide is Gina Santucci, who now works as associate general counsel at BGR Holding, the lobbying, public relations and financial advisory firm formerly known as Barbour Griffith & Rogers, founded by current Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and veteran GOP political strategist Ed Rogers.

Until recently, Santucci worked as legislative counsel to Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas), whose office received its share of inaugural tickets on Tuesday. Santucci was on the congressman's distribution list, Poe's office acknowledged when contacted by the Sleuth.

But Santucci apparently had no intention of going to the inauguration herself. Her entrepreneurial spirit took over, and she headed straight for Craigslist, where she listed four of the highly coveted tickets to Obama's inaugural ceremony and fetched a speedy offer from someone willing to pay $875 a piece.

The email exchange between Santucci, who used her real name and personal email address, and the prospective buyer, who used the name "Jackie Kentucky" from a gmail address, was forwarded to the Sleuth.

"Jackie - Just to confirm, you'll pay $3500 for 4 tickets? Are you able to pay in cash?" Santucci wrote. "I am picking up the tickets on Wednesday afternoon and will be able to meet you after that."

Jackie Kentucky wrote back, agreeing to pay cash if Santucci could produce a letter or email proving authenticity of the inauguration tickets.

"Yes, I have an email, but will redact information identifying Member of Congress as he is a personal friend of mine and I do not want to cause embarrassment," Santucci replied. She added that she could thrown in an extra ticket, upping the price to $4,500 for five tickets.

Contacted by the Sleuth, Poe's spokeswoman, Deeann Thigpen, acknowledged the congressman's office intended to give Santucci tickets to the inaugural swearing-in. But she said the congressman didn't expect Santucci would sell them.

"Unfortunately it's not illegal to sell the tickets," Thigpen said, adding, "but that was not the intention of our office." She said Santucci would no longer be receiving tickets from Poe's office.

Jackie Kentucky, a Sleuth in her own right, forwarded the email exchange to us with a link to a photo gallery on Poe's congressional Web site that included a photo identifying Santucci as Congressman Poe's legislative counsel. (Here is a frame grab of the Web page she sent us; Santucci is the aide giving an award in that photo.)

Congressional aides have been warned repeatedly by House and Senate ethics officials and the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies not to sell any of the Obama inaugural ceremony tickets that are being distributed by Congress free of charge this week.

And Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the JCCIC, is still trying to win Senate approval of legislation to criminalize the sale of tickets to the presidential inaugural swearing-in ceremony by anyone - on or off Capitol Hill.

Contacted by the Sleuth, Santucci acknowledged her attempted sale of the tickets on Craigslist, saying, "I made a mistake. It was a bad idea. I won't be accepting the tickets and I clearly won't be selling them."

She didn't mention Congressman Poe by name but said, "I'm sorry for any embarrassment I've caused to anyone."

After realizing Santucci's intent to sell the tickets, Poe, a former judge and prosecutor who was recently appointed to serve on the House Judiciary Committee, sent an email to everyone on his distribution list reminding them that inaugural tickets are for personal use only and not to be sold.

Feinstein hopes Congress will pass her bill this week. It would make it a misdemeanor to sell or attempt to sell tickets to the swearing-in ceremony or create fraudulent tickets, punishable by up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. (For unknown reasons, the bill is being held up by certain GOP objections.)

Informed of Santucci's attempted sale of inaugural tickets, Feinstein told the Sleuth, "I believe the scalping of inaugural tickets runs contrary to the spirit of this historic inauguration. Anyone who has requested tickets from my office will be required to agree not to sell them, or will have their tickets revoked."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  January 13, 2009; 3:30 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Bono, the Boss, Beyonce and Many More Headline Inaugural Concert
Next: Tickets to Obama's Inauguration: to Scalp, or Not to Scalp


Memo to Feinstein: selling Inaugural tickets may be tacky, but it certainly doesn't rise to the level of a hand-cuff-em--strip-search-them--and-throw-them-in-jail Federal crime.

We've increased our prison population by over 500% in a single generation because of grandstanding politicians like you, criminalizing everything in sight because it makes you look like you're "doing something."

Now that the average US male has a 6% lifetime chance of going to jail (up from a mere 1% in 1975), I hope we'll start seeing a backlash against pandering politicians who pass ever more punitive laws.

Posted by: DupontJay | January 13, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I am receiving two tickets from a member and I decided to not sell them but give them away...though I did go online to look for additional tickets and emailed someone on craigslist and googled their name and they were an Obama campaign manager selling them.. he did contact me by email... but i did not buy them as it turned out i ultimately could not go...

Posted by: dsl14599 | January 13, 2009 5:07 PM | Report abuse

The republicans in congress may be holding out against the law because they're all selling their tickets for big bucks.

Posted by: karela | January 13, 2009 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Dumb blond.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | January 13, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm torn on this. While I do think adding more criminal laws to the books doesn't really do anyone any good, I'm also disgusted by the folks who are selling these things.

The best thing to do is to threaten to publicly embarass anyone who sells these things by posting their name and info anywhere and everywhere. They're still free to sell them if they want, but make it really embarassing to do so.

Posted by: dtgwu2005 | January 13, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

I find the comment of "Bitter Bill" much more offensive than the actions described in this article. By using the term "dumb blonde" he is going against everything that this historic election stands for. Maybe he should examine how his natural reaction to reading this article was to summon up a stereotype of a whole group of people. Bitter Bill's comment runs contrary to the spirit of the election much more than an attempt to sell tickets to people who otherwise might not have had an opportunity to witness history. Further, I have to agree with DupontJay that the idea of criminalizing selling tickets is another example of a politician trying to garner attention.

Posted by: Newspaper21 | January 13, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

She IS dumb and she IS blond. I stand by my comment.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | January 13, 2009 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Bitter_Bill, Ms. Santucci does not appear to be a natural blonde.

Regardless, your comment is childish, and leaves a sour taste in my mouth. This is a time when our country is pulling together to face one of the most challanging times in history, and irrelevant comments like yours are so frustrating. Get a life.



Posted by: klh84 | January 13, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Why are we surprised? This what the gop does. They are all leaving Washington on 01/20/09, don't you know that's what all the GOPs with tickets are doing. They are selling them, this women is not the first. She made her mistake when she went on line. They other crooks are not on line.

Posted by: pokeymompokey | January 13, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

This is truly sad, as someone who tried to get tickets, an who walked all those miles and knocked on doors. This is one of the many reasons why. I will be one of the many millions on the mall who wanted tickets and worked hard to be considered and never had a chance because of quid pro quo.

Posted by: easttexan | January 13, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

You are not the only one easttexan, there are many of us in the same position that did the work and was over looked due to greed.

Posted by: easternstar25 | January 13, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

dsl14599...unless you can give the name, title, location, etc of this purported Obama manager that you allege was willing to sell you Inaugural tickets, I will just assume you are Rush Limbaugh and need a good radio story for your tribe tomorrow.

Listen, Ms. Santucci supported Dick Cheney...did you think she wouldn't sell those tickets??? She's a lawyer too...(I'm smiling) shades of Alberto Gonzales...ethics whether required by law or the personal variety seem in short supply over on the GOP side.

Posted by: anghiari | January 13, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Republican profiteering, that's a redundant phrase, isn't it?

Posted by: hairguy01 | January 13, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

We should all congratulate BGR (Basically Grasping Republicans?) for hiring this gem.

Especially since, according to their site, "BGR's professionals pride themselves on integrity and success. Their experience and expertise are what make BGR a highly-effective, well-respected and successful team of advocates."

Send congratulations to

Posted by: CalDamage | January 13, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

While doing this is tacky and stupid, fortunately for all of us, neither tacky nor stupid are felony offenses. What DOES fall under the banner of "Felony Stupid" is using your real name and personal email address.

Posted by: dmitch12 | January 13, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I can't be judgmental of Miss Santucci. I was a legislative assistant for a Democratic congressman in 1992 during the Clinton inauguration. MTV threw an unofficial inaugural ball that year and through the congressman's office I was able to scrounge 4 free tickets. I didn't intend to sell them but once I found out I could sell them for $1,000 each to a ticket scalper, it wasn't a tough decision. $4,000 was a lot of money to someone who made only $20,000 at the time.

Inaugural ceremony tickets were initially hard to obtain for the 1st Clinton term, but to my surprise by the day of the ceremony you couldn't give them away.

Posted by: wdrm4000 | January 13, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

Yea, no Democrat would sell there tickets. I mean, not a single solitary ticket given to a Democrat's office has been offered for sale. Not one single major contributor to the DNC, DCCC or any Democrat's office has been given a ticket in thanks for their 'donation'. Only Republicans sell tickets.

Posted by: idiparker | January 13, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Mary Anne, a Republican caught trying to sell inaugural tickets! My goodness! What sleuthing on your part. You're proof that, despite evidence to the contrary, reportage in this country still meets the highest standards of relevance. I'm sure Woodward and Bernstein are proud to number you among their professional colleagues. Golly, this may even put you right up there in the pantheon of "reporters" who covered the Iraq War from the safety of The Green Zone.

Posted by: Rocks66 | January 13, 2009 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness someone has some sense in this economy. Highest bidder please! Let's get some money changing hands!

Posted by: muhtashem | January 13, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

maryann & jackie,

came about this piece via puffington host.

profiteering off our american system should be frowned upon, especially if profiteering occurs through "special access".

"it is unlawful to sell US Government property unless disposed of by DRMO".

keep up the good work!

Posted by: egalitaire | January 14, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

Ignore Bitter Bill, he's a troll.

Posted by: mike8 | January 14, 2009 12:16 AM | Report abuse

The GOP does not have a lock on being unethical or corrupt.
What Democrat governor tried to sell the Senate seat of President-Elect Obama?
What is worse, trying to sell a Senate seat or selling a few tickets you are not going to use.
Also look to the Democrat Mayor of Memphis if you want to locate another unethical elected official and one without good character in my opinion. Look at the many other Democrats from the Memphis area who have been convicted in the past 3 years for crimes while in office.
Both parties have political corruption and lack of ethics, one is no better than the other if you look around the country.

Posted by: Illinois3 | January 14, 2009 12:38 AM | Report abuse

Sniveling is unbecoming Illinois3, even for Republicans. Do show some self-respect.

Posted by: donpersons | January 14, 2009 12:52 AM | Report abuse

A Typical Congressional reaction; lets have a law that can only be enforced by serindipity. This results in the debasement of a law based society . As more laws are unenforceable more laws are broken. Typical reaction from a politican from the nanny state. I always thought Feinstien was better than that Must be DF still has her knickers in a twist over Leon Panetta

Posted by: jasonfelton1 | January 14, 2009 2:27 AM | Report abuse

At some point in time lawmakers need to address the real issues... the heads of Enron, WorldCom, and the Madoff types get off scott free. Start putting people in jail that are doing the most harm.

Posted by: rodnacious1 | January 14, 2009 2:53 AM | Report abuse

Why do attorneys such as Gina Santucci, when caught, say "I made a mistake"?

It wasn't a mistake--it was her decision to do what she and other ticket recipients had specifically been told NOT to do. Her "mistake" was to completely ignore the conditions under which she was going to receive four tickets.

We generally think it is laughable when a criminal makes a plea in court that s/he "made a mistake." This person knew that what she was doing was wrong, and she did it anyway.

Posted by: spbphil | January 14, 2009 2:56 AM | Report abuse

Tickets (inauguration, concert, sports...) are a commodity. Making it illegal to sell a ticket goes against everything our country is based on... capitalism and democracy. Some groups have things other people want and are willing to pay for it. The original problem is the tickets were only given to people in office. How many Repulicans really want to go? So now Republicans can't "sell" their tickets and must give them away to someone who will owe them a "favor" in the future. Still sounds like a transaction to me, but closed to all but the inner circles. Go look at the past... Democrats sold all their inauguration tickets when Bush came into office. Why make it illegal now?

Posted by: thebaddog | January 14, 2009 6:42 AM | Report abuse

As someone who tried and failed to get tickets, it angers me to see tickets being given to people who don't intend to use them and may not have even voted.

For those of us without tickets, go to for some strategic advice.

Posted by: franko2 | January 14, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

This is a very disappointing 'tale'-- that there is someone out there selling tickets.

Talk about the 'world not level. I know of so many Barack Obama supporters who trecked over 'hill and dale' before he was the candidate to knock on doors, gave money in $20 and $30...amounts, yet have no chances of getting a ticket.

Its shameful...the Obama camp needs to know that being poor...doesnt mean one is dumb, and have no understanding of what going on.

Posted by: Victoria5 | January 14, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Why is it unethical for an individual to sell a ticket to the inauguration when the Presidential Inauguration Committee is selling seats for $50,000?

Posted by: nova56013 | January 14, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

First of all I am not Rush....I am a liberal democrat and a very very big Obama supporter ..... I just wanted to point out that both sides do two ticket that I am getting I am giving away someone.

Posted by: dsl14599 | January 14, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

BTW I saved the emails and can prove it but I am sympathetic person and do not want to put their name on here....I can provide them to Mary if she asks though....

Posted by: dsl14599 | January 14, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

So, they want to pass a law to ensure that only those "connected" can get tickets? Tickets selling on craigslist is pretty much the only way this outsider can get to the ceremony.

Posted by: erobw | January 14, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Gee, amid a sea of online ticket sellers (Republicans, Democrats, Independents and whoever else alike), we're focusing one ONE Republican?

Why no, the American news media shows NO bias at all! Least of all the Washington Post, whose op-ed pages try to skewer the GOP on an almost daily basis.

Yes, the Republicans might have Fox News, but the Democrats have the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, NBC News... The list goes on and on.

Posted by: KT13 | January 14, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse










• What happened to Homeland Security warnings of "heightened risk" during Presidential transition?

• How about the late November FBI warning about possible Northeast train station attacks?

• "Amtrak Joe" Biden's longstanding warnings about security flaws along the Amtrak Northeast corridor -- why isn't he waving this whistle stop tour to a halt?


OR (if link is corrupted):

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 14, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

If ticket scapling is unethical then what is this?
Direct from Craigslist:

“Reply to: [?]
Date: 2009-01-13, 6:09AM EST
I am picking up two tickets I received from my Senator on Friday. Could be in your hands Friday. No time to waste so taking offers today & will choose winner today. 1000 per ticket obo nothing below that amount. Will give packet that comes with tickets to you as well when I pick them up. Not asking for a deposit, just agreement that person receiving tickets will show up to meet me on day of pick-up. Proof and information needed will be provided to serious inquiries. I am not a broker or a scammer, just an honest person who may face possible lay-off from job that announced reductions after I requested these tickets. Paypal is acceptable & can discuss other options offer maker might suggest that are safe for both parties. I am coming from another state to pick up tickets and have factored in travel."

Posted by: GailCG | January 14, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Well, it's an unethical scalper, just like the subject of this blog post. That person will probably be caught, too. What's your point, except that you know about Craigslist?

Posted by: mike8 | January 14, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

You can't be serious, are you people really that bored at work to write about this nonsense?

You should be investigating the exploitation of people illegally subletting their apartments/condos in the area, which I'm sure violates their contracts with the property managers.

Leave Ms. Santucci alone; I bet if I gave you a list of Democratic interns and staff members doing the same thing, no one would even follow up on it since the media obviously practices favoritism!

Furthermore, if it is not illegal at this point to sell the tickets, then why waste the effort of writing up such a trifling story, maybe just to give your self pleasure by bashing the GOP? You people make me sick!!

Perhaps you should focus your attention on more salient issues that we actually care about. Get a job man!!!

Posted by: jah99183 | January 14, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Don't like the guy; didn't vote forr him. But his inauguration tickets are gold- what's a republican to do? (ask the guys in the finance markets for sdvice on the ethics of this issue?)

Posted by: interactidiomas | January 14, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

WHAT! You say? Did I hear the faint breathing of another GOP?

Posted by: goldenwren | January 14, 2009 11:03 PM | Report abuse

I have two tickets to the Swearing-In, Standing Capitol Lawn, Purple Section. I am not interested in selling these for less than $3000 for both.

I have two tickets to the Youth Ball - one of the ten official Black Tie balls where Obama/Biden will be in attendance. I am not interested in selling these for less than $12000 for both.

I'd prefer to sell the entire package to one buyer, $15,000 OBO

I received these tickets because I was an employee of the campaign. I am ready, willing, and happy to verify my former employment with you. These tickets are authentic. They have security devices on them for easy screening at the event.

So, please, only respond if you're a serious buyer. Im happy to overnight these tickets to you upon receiving payment. Prefer PayPal or bank wire.

Posted by: DonRitchie | January 15, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Aw, give Feinstein a break! She had to do something in her tenure as Senator elected from the largest State in the Union!

Posted by: nwsjnky1 | January 15, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Wow now we are making a fuss about "dumb blonde". Just because I'm a woman, I don't automatically get offended when someone yells "stupid tramp". I'm neither stupid or a tramp. Obviously if you are a Congressional Aide scalping free "tickets" you are DUMB. That she is a blonde "natural or bottle" well that's just a bonus. In 2009, I need women to grow up and get OVER their self-righteous indignation. Bitter Bill, I would have called her a dumb, "well you can probably figure out the rest". And I'm an Obama voting, Blogo loathing, Kennedy LOVING Democrat. Oh, I'm also a woman!

Posted by: 09Feminist | January 17, 2009 1:01 AM | Report abuse

I am hopeful that the Dept of Justice and the Attorney Genereral will do the right thing and indict GWBush, Cheney, Dr. Rice Rumsfeld et al for War Crimes. Step up for the USA before The World Court must make the move and we are further embarrassed by the ilk of Bush and his gangsters.

Posted by: mrbm | January 18, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

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