(This story was updated at on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 at 3:37pm EST to add comments from John Samerjan, spokesperson for the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority.)
In separate instances, politicians in New Jersey and Massachusetts allegedly received sweetheart deals on Bruce Springsteen, U2, Jonas Brothers and World Series tickets, and in the New Jersey case the preferential treatment reportedly came after the state had sued several ticket brokers for their alleged practices.
The New Jersey case allegedly centers around former Gov. Jon Corzine’s office receiving a total 57 tickets during a four-month period in 2009 for Springsteen, U2 and Jonas Brothers shows at Giants Stadium and the nearby IZOD Center, both of which are run by the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA). Corzine did not use any of the tickets himself, and according to a NJSEA spokesperson, those who received the tickets paid face value for them.
However, the tickets were specially set aside for the officials and not available to the public, a common practice by the NJSEA, which said that less than 1 percent of tickets to events at its facilities are withheld for public officials.
Paula Franzese, chairperson of the New Jersey Ethics Commission, is calling for an investigation into the matter, she told Bloomberg News. “The means by which the tickets are secured has everything to do with undue access and using official position to secure an unfair advantage.”
She added, “The public can’t help but feel violated when the perception is some are entitled to special treatment, but not others.”
The ticketing deal came to light during discovery phase for a case involving the state’s Attorney General’s office against several ticket brokers, who allegedly listed tickets for sale on Web sites before they had the tickets in hand. Among the entities being sued include Select-A-Ticket of New Jersey and Connecticut-based TicketNetwork.
John Samerjan, spokesperson for NJSEA, told TicketNews that the NJSEA policy concerning ticket holdbacks has been in effect for 33 years and is no secret to the state ethics commission.
“We understand that people get frustrated, but this has been an open book for 33 years, but we’re happy to sit down with them if they have questions,” he said.
Samerjan added, “If they’re concerned about tickets, they should look at the disreputable secondary ticket market, because that’s what hurts the public, with brokers selling tickets to seats that don’t exist.” Among the allegations made by the Attorney General’s office is that some tickets the brokers were selling were allegedly for phantom seats.
The issue of ticket holdbacks has simmered in New Jersey and other states over the past couple of years because it remains a closely held system by artists, promoters, venues, sponsors and others involved in the concert industry. The practice has been criticized by some because fans are in the dark about how many tickets are actually available to the public for a specific event. State legislatures, such as in Connecticut, have sought to open up the practice and have concert producers disclose how many tickets are available to the public when an event goes on sale.
While not addressing the New Jersey matter directly, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. said through a spokesperson that more transparency and accountability are needed in the ticketing industry. Pascrell is the lead sponsor of the Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act (BOSS ACT), one of two separate bills in the House designed to regulate the ticketing industry.
“Rep. Pascrell continues to push his legislation to require transparency and accountability in the concert and sports ticketing industry. Following a huge debacle in selling tickets to Bruce Springsteen shows in February 2009, provisions in his BOSS ACT were designed to shine a light on deals that raise ticket prices and limit availability for fans everywhere,” Paul Brubaker, spokesperson for Rep. Pascrell, told TicketNews.
In the Massachusetts matter, Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto was offered two premium tickets to a 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series game by former team general manager Dan Duquette, while he and Ruberto were negotiating for Duquette’s minor league baseball team to play games at a town-owned stadium.
Ruberto paid face value for the tickets, $190 each, which he said he used for himself and his father to attend the World Series game, a lifelong dream of his father’s, according to the Boston Globe.
The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission charged Ruberto and Duquette with conflict of interest. At the time, similar Red Sox World Series tickets were selling for $2,000 to $3,000 each on secondary market.
During an ethics commission hearing this week, Duquette’s attorney said his client sold Ruberto the tickets simply to get rid of them so they would be used, the Globe reported. Duquette no longer owns the minor league team, which is mostly composed of collegiate players.
The tickets were to Game 2 of the 2004 World Series, a 6-2 victory by the Sox over the St. Louis Cardinals, and a few months later Duquette’s former team, the Berkshire Dukes, signed a lease agreement with Pittsfield. Other town officials testified that they did not feel pressured by Ruberto or other officials to sign the deal.
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