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Here Comes The Inaugural Ticket Police

By CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

"Freeze fella - and drop those Inauguration tickets!"

That could be an oft-heard command from the Inaugural Ticket police if Sen. Diane Feinstein gets her way.

The California Democrat wants to make it a federal crime for anyone to sell a ticket to the Inauguration of Pres. Barack Obama.

As Chair of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Feinstein believes that no one should have to pay for a ticket to the historic swearing-in ceremony on January 20th.

And though not a single Inaugural ticket has yet been distributed, Feinstein has already served notice on Internet websites that specialize in the sale of tickets to major events.

"The public should be aware that no website or other ticket outlet actually has Inaugural swearing-in tickets to sell, regardless of what they may claim," declares a press release from Feinstein's committee.

And yet, you can go on-line now and find tickets being offered for sale.

On the website of StubHub.Com, it trumpets "Presidential Inauguration Tickets - Don't Miss the Show!" It shows a price range for tickets to the swearing-in ceremony from $1950-$7500 each. It says the event takes place at 1:00PM on January 20th. Note that if you show up at that time - you will have missed it by an hour.

So if you can't buy a ticket - how do you get one of the 240,000 of them that will be available? You have to ask one of your members of Congress. And asking may not be enough. Begging or groveling may be required.

And direct your appeal not to members of the current lame duck Congress - but to the 111th Congress whose members get sworn in early in the new year. Of course, in the case of members who won re-election, they're one and the same.

It's up to each of them to decide how best to distribute the tickets. There is no first-come, first-served policy - unless the House or Senate member in question chooses to do it that way.

But if you were a member of Congress with a valuable commodity to distribute - would you hand them out to just anyone who asked? Or might you be inclined to curry favor with important constituents and/or political contributors?

So why give Members of Congress that kind of control over highly sought-after tickets?

Perhaps a national lottery should be considered. It could raise funds for the federal government which as we write is over $10.6-trillion dollars in debt. Yes, trillion.

Or maybe we should give the tickets to troubled banks as part of the federal bailout program.

More than likely, some of us will end up in on a street corner or down a dark alley in search of scalpers with Inauguration tickets. That too, is the American way.
© By Mark Knoller, MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved

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