By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 14, 2008
If you are one of the few to land a ticket to the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama, don't think about hawking it on eBay.
The online auction site is banning such postings after a U.S. senator said she was crafting a bill to make the sales a federal crime.
The 240,000 or so tickets, which will be available for free, have not been distributed by members of Congress or the yet-to-be created presidential inaugural committee. But that did not stop people from offering them on eBay and other Web sites, promising they would secure the tickets if they were paid up to $40,000 apiece.
Representatives of the auction site met with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and came to a mutual decision to stop the sales, said eBay spokeswoman Nichola Sharpe.
"We think it's in the best interest of all concerned," she said.
Tickets currently being offered on eBay will be removed, and the ban extends to eBay's other online ventures, including StubHub and Kijiji, Sharpe said.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, announced Monday that she was contacting sites to ask them to stop selling tickets to the Jan. 20 event. She said she was drafting legislation to criminalize the sales.
In a statement, Feinstein said eBay "led the way and I hope other Internet companies will follow."
The tickets will be distributed about a week before the ceremony. Members of Congress have been swamped with requests, and some offices have asked constituents to stop calling until they can figure out how to allocate them. Some lawmakers are talking about conducting lotteries.
The tickets admit people to a main viewing area between the West Front of the Capitol and Fourth Street NW. Those without tickets can join the scene at the Mall but will be several blocks from the action.
EBay is determining which other inaugural events, including the parade, should be off-limits.
Staff writer Michael E. Ruane contributed to this report.