Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Block Auctions in Inauguration Tickets?

New York Senator Charles Schumer, who chairs the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, is asking with eBay and Craigslist to remove listings for presidential inauguration tickets. And they are complying. Although ticket lottery winners must pledge not to scalp the ticket to turn a profit:
The lack of recipient tracking creates a gap between having people pledge not to resell awarded lottery tickets and incentivizing recipients to keep their promise. Without a way to track the allotted tickets, it is difficult to make the pledge as honorable as possible.

Students of Managerial Economics may well wonder why such an efficient mechanism for the allocation of goods as auctions is to be barred. Maybe efficiency is not the goal.

The tickets are obviously valuable, some have gone for $4,300, but are supposed to be distributed free of charge by congressional offices. The congressmen may want to extract a future favor from lottery winners. It is likely that a ticket requester motivated by a resale motive would have less of an affinity for the congressman and would be less prone to offer future favors. As evidence:
Bud Miller, executive director of the Coupon Information Center, wishes he had the same power to convince eBay to stop the illegal sale of coupons, like Schumer had over scalping inauguration tickets.  "Senators have the ability to move heaven and earth and occasionally a website," Miller said this afternoon. 

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