California Assemblymember V. Manuel Pérez is facing a public relations pickle following revelations that he resold 25 wristbands for the always popular Coachella Music Festival.
While Coachella’s organizational parent company Goldenvoice outlines on the Coachella website that the festival does not “tolerate scalping of any kind at all,” those same rules apparently do not apply to local California politicians. Pérez’s campaign spokesman Josh Pulliam told The Desert Sun newspaper that Goldenvoice “specifically approved the campaign purchasing tickets for a campaign fundraiser.”
Pérez is a two-term Democratic member of the California State Assembly representing a district that includes the city of Coachella. Pérez is currently running for reelection against Republican challenger Corky Reynaga- Emett. Reports have Pérez with a large lead over Reynaga- Emett in terms of campaign funds raised, with Reynaga- Emett raising roughly $7,000 and Pérez having raised upwards of $156,000 prior to the wristband campaign fundraiser.
The 25 wristbands, which sold for $2,500.00 for a single wristband and $3,900.00 for a pair, were for the second weekend of Coachella from April 20, 2012 through April 22, 2012. A regular priced wristband for a single weekend cost $285.00 plus additional service fees. Included in the price of Pérez’s wristbands was food, transportation, and hospitality. Lodging for the weekend was not part of the price.
While Pérez’s resale of tickets to such a popular event may have created a media stir, it is hardly illegal under California law. In California, it is only illegal to resell tickets at a price above face value if the sale takes place “while on the grounds of or in the stadium, arena, theater, or other place where an event for which admission tickets are sold is to be held or is being held,” and the ticket is sold without the written consent of the property owner. In this instance, Pérez’s actions were not governed by the California ticket resale law and were thus perfectly legal.
The resale of tickets to high profile concerts and sporting events by politicians is hardly new, particularly in California politics. According to The Desert Sun, California Rep. Mary Bono Mack is on record as having sold $1,000.00 tickets to an NCAA Men’s Basketball game in 2011. But the major difference between Mack and Pérez’s actions, The Desert Sun points out, is that tickets to NCAA Basketball games are routinely available for resale via secondary ticketing websites, while tickets to Coachella are, according to the event’s organizers, not meant to be resold via the secondary market.
Rather than politicians using the sale of event tickets as a fundraising enterprise, what tends to cause the most public backlash is the acceptance of complementary tickets to high profile events. The topic of politicians receiving complementary tickets has, in the past, lead to state action, with Louisiana even going so far as to pass a piece of legislation in 2008 barring politicians from accepting free tickets to certain events. Similarly, in 2008 a Texas Representative was found in violation of Texas state law when he accepted complementary tickets to the 2004 Super Bowl.
According to The Desert Sun, Pérez received six complementary tickets to the first weekend of the 2012 Coachella Music Festival. However, those wristbands were not among those sold during the fundraiser, and California law allows for such transactions to occur.
While Pérez’s actions were not illegal in the state of California, it remains to be seen if this situation will have any sort of impact on Pérez’s chances in the November elections.