Ticket scalpers profiting off the buzz created by the historic Bruce Springsteen/Billy Joel fundraiser appear to be breaking campaign finance laws. And fans who use scalpers could be complicit.
October 16th Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel will play a show at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom. This is the first time they have played together in this century. It’s the night after the final presidential debate and the concert is a benefit for Barack Obama. Excitement about the show and "special guests" is skyrocketing. Obama himself is rumored to be scheduled to appear.
On Obama’s Change Rocks website $500 balcony seats are already sold out. A premier seat costs $2,500. "Rocker seats" are $5,000 each, while a “lounge ticket” is $10,000. Buying these tickets is considered legally to be a contribution to Obama’s campaign.
The first $2,300 of each contribution from an individual will be allocated to Obama for America and will be considered designated for the general election. The next $28,500 of each contribution from an individual will be allocated to the Democratic National Committee, per campaign finance laws.
As with any high demand event, scalpers are hawking tickets online. A sampling of Manhattan ticket agencies and Craigslist ads shows the balcony seats being scalped at prices ranging from $1,833 to $2,261 and floor seats for as much as $4,640. One Craigslist ad promises "the experience of a lifetime" for $25,000 a ticket. Considering $10,000 seats are still available, the mark up and its description seem rather extravagant.
But the ticket agencies who are profiting from the sales of tickets to the Springsteen/Billy Joel event seem to be doing something more fishy that simply making a buck. Explains David Donnelly of Campaign Money Watch:
If someone purchases tickets for the express purpose of reselling them rather than to make a contribution to Obama or the DNC, they appear to be breaking the law.
While New York State fixes no cap on what brokers and others can charge when reselling a ticket, ticket brokers and their straw men–those doing the buying of the tickets for brokers–seem to be obviously violating federal election codes, specifically US Code Title 2, 441b and US Code Title 2 441f. A consumer who used a ticket broker to obtain these coveted tickets may have technically violated the latter law, after the fact.
The only legitimate, legal way obtain tickets to the Springsteen/Joel show is through the Obama campaign itself. The Barack Obama website spells it out clearly, with a legal disclaimer reads:
This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank…
The funds I am donating are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.
If a ticket broker uses his company credit card–or company funds of any sort–to obtain a ticket from the Obama campaign, he’s in violation of US Code Title 2 441b, using corporate funds to make a campaign contribution.
If a ticket broker gives someone company money to buy a ticket for him they both are in violation. The broker has used corporate funds to make a campaign contribution; the straw man has used "funds provided by another person or entity," in violation of US Code Title 2 441f.
The ticket broker is making a contribution to the campaign, receiving a ticket in exchange for the contribution, and expecting to be reimbursed by whoever buys the ticket from him. The fan who buys a ticket from a broker has allowed a contribution to be made by another party–the ticket dealer or his straw man–in order to receive the ticket. The fan provides money to reimburse the ticket broker–or his straw man–for the original contribution.
Fans may not have known they are committing an illegal act by using a ticket broker to purchase the Springsteen/Joel tickets. But whoever clicked the required legal disclaimer on the Obama page when contributing for the purpose of obtaining a ticket for resale could not help but know they were breaking Federal laws.
Obama’s campaign is not responsible for the actions of the ticket brokers. The Obama campaign in good faith provided tickets to individuals in exchange for contributions. But some of these individuals who made contributions lied. Note that in order to purchase a ticket from the campaign site–that is make a contribution and receive a ticket–you must sign off on points of campaign finance law in the disclaimer before your sale/contribution can be completed.
Ticket brokers using their company funds violated the law. People acting as straw men for the ticket agencies broke the law. And fans are indirectly involved when they purchase these tickets obtained through falsehoods and illegal means.
So if you’re considering paying $2,200 or $4,600 to a ticket scalper, just pony up the extra to Obama’s campaign for a better, and legally obtained, view closer to the stage.