One Spurned Purple Ticket Holder Claims Victory
Those spurned purple, blue and silver ticket holders aren't very pleased with this week's not-so-detailed report on Inauguration Day chaos, which pins blame more on the oversize crowd than on police.
But at least one of the ticket holders, a hefty contributor to President Obama's inaugural committee who was left out in the cold on Jan. 20, feels she's on the verge of winning compensation -- but not from the inaugural committee, which has closed up shop and refuses to respond to complaints.
Patricia Jones Blessman, who gave $10,000 to the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC), has asked for a refund and received tentative word from her credit card company that she'll get every dime of it back.
Blessman tells the Sleuth she followed the refund protocol outlined by American Express, the card she used to make her donation, and sent a copy of her letter to the inaugural committee. American Express has given her an "interim" refund in full, pending a review that will involve the credit card company presenting to PIC officials all of Blessman's documentation on the services she feels she was denied.
Her complaint centers on not getting to see Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, a privilege for which she - unlike most inauguration goers - had paid big bucks. Blessman, a clinical psychologist, and her husband, Stephen Blessman, an investor, are Chicagoans and longtime supporters of Obama.
Blessman says she felt treated "like nothing more than an ATM" by the inaugural committee.
In exchange for her donation, Blessman had received a donor package of perks that included two tickets to Obama's swearing-in ceremony. But she never made it to her viewing spot on account of the security mayhem that prevented tens of thousands of ticketed inauguration goers from getting to their seats and left many of them trapped for hours in what came to be known as the Purple Tunnel of Doom.
Blessman and her husband both donated to Obama's presidential campaign in addition to giving $10,000 to help fund his inaugural celebration. Jones was a volunteer bundler for the campaign and blogged often on Obama's campaign Website.
"Bereft, bittersweet disappointment does not even begin to describe the emotions we are left with on what should have been a joyous mountaintop experience. The irony is that we paid for this madness," Blessman wrote in an email dated Jan. 22 to Julianna Smoot, a co-chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee and the national finance chair of Obama's presidential campaign.
But after it appeared she would be getting a refund this month, Blessman wrote in an email to the Sleuth, "The PIC did what was honorable and acted in a way consistent with the values we personally know the Obamas hold. "
The PIC, however, had nothing to do with American Express's decision to tentatively refund Blessman's account pending a review of the matter. And it's unclear when or if American Express will hear back from anyone at the inaugural committee, which has officially closed its doors and clearly isn't responding to donors like Blessman.
Furthermore, the PIC had no responsibility or authority for planning and security matters at the inaugural swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol. But PIC spokesman Josh Earnest, who is now working in the White House press office, said last month, "We're sympathetic to the disappointment of those who had tickets to the swearing-in but were not admitted - many of whom had dedicated their time, energy and money to our successful campaign. It's also why we're following the congressional inquiry into the logistical problems that plagued the Capitol Hill ceremony."
A fair interpretation of that comment could be taken to mean: We feel bad for our donors, but it's not our problem!
Mary Ann Akers
March 25, 2009; 4:00 PM ET
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