Published reports over the weekend that U.S Senator Frank Lautenberg’s re-election campaign called in some chits with the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to but forty premium seat tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s concert this Sunday for $108 each and resell them for $1,500 each to campaign contributors raised an interesting question: what if some random person called a State Senator’s office and asked them if they had the clout to get them tickets to see The Boss?
PolitickerNJ.com asked one of our summer interns, Michael Gsovski, to find out.
The strategy was simple: I called all of the district offices of the state senators and said I had read an article about Lautenberg's gambit and wanted to know if I could buy tickets from their boss. I did this for two days until I had a response from every single office.
The response from the corridors of power was unanimous — No. The Springsteen tickets were unattainable. Of the entire state Senate membership, not one of the offices admitted to being able to get tickets to the show at Giants Stadium.
All but one office denied doing anything like that. The only exception was the office of State Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Demarest), who said that they would help constituents obtain tickets to desired events, but only rarely and well in advance. The Springsteen concert did not fall into this category.
“We do it for people who request it early,” said the woman who answered Cardinale’s office phone. “But we don't have a tendency of doing that in this office.”
Within the 39 other “no” responses, there were several interesting trends and variations. The most startling one was that the ticket request, which could be considered unreasonable, was not treated with contempt or outrage. When dealing with this constituent request, the professionalism displayed by all of the offices contacted — from the staffers manning the phones to the chiefs of staff — was absolutely impeccable and uniform, perhaps out of respect for The Boss.
On several occasions, I was referred within and outside the office to sources who might have better information and twice received calls back from the office after leaving my number for further information. When state Sen. Jim Whelan's (D-Atlantic City) office was contacted, Whelan himself got on the line, telling me he couldn't help and talked for a minute or so about his own Springsteen fanhood — of the eight CDs in his car, two are of Springsteen, Whelan said.
“I don't have my hands on any Springsteen tickets,” Whelan said. “I've seen Springsteen twice at Boardwalk Hall, but both times I got my tickets the old-fashioned way.”
Variations came in how much various offices knew about the practice of obtaining tickets through the authority and whether or not other offices practiced it.
The woman answering at Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr.'s office had heard of senators taking requests from constituents, and Kean had formerly performed the service, but had not in some time.
“I had heard that some of the Senate or Assembly offices request [tickets],” she said. “We have not done that in several years, but I know that several districts have taken requests from their constituents and put on waiting lists.”
The woman who answered the phone at the office of State Sen. Phil Haines (R-Medford) said that her chief of staff told her that they had considered getting tickets for fundraising, but abandoned the plan.
“They talked about it, but it violates the anti-scalping law so we decided against it,” she said.
However, the reaction from many offices was that they knew only as much as we did about the practice of politicians getting tickets for constituents.
“No, we actually heard that for the first time in the newspaper,” said the woman answering at the district office of state Sen. Robert Rice (D-Newark). “We don't have access to anything. When we need tickets, we usually buy them through Ticketmaster.”
Michael Gsovski is studying economics at Northwestern University where he writes for the Daily Northwestern. He's spending his summer working full-time at Politicker.com.