First in line no guarantee for inaugural tickets

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WASHINGTON – So your member of Congress has declared a first-come, first-served policy on handing out hard-to-get tickets to Barack Obama's presidential swearing-in. Sounds fair enough.

But in a town where "yes" can mean "no" and the definition of "is" has been rhetorically spun, "first" does not necessarily mean No. 1 in line.

Even the most egalitarian members of Congress have family members, friends, political contributors and others clamoring for what are the most sought-after 240,000 free tickets in the world. Lawmakers are not required to disclose the recipients so the list of those who will get some of the 200 to 500 tickets per office might well begin before the average person gets in line.

Dan Glickman does not need the audacity of hope to score these tickets. The former agriculture secretary and current president of the Motion Picture Association of America is entitled to two tickets as a former member of Congress.

But Glickman also rang up his home-state senator to secure more.

"We'll try to work with him and help him out if we can," Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., said in a telephone interview.

Said Glickman's spokesman, Seth Oster, in an e-mail: "Dan is trying to help out some everyday people who are excited about this election and eager to see the swearing-in." Oster said the intended recipients are Glickman's former constituents, but he would not say whether they are friends or family members, nor how many people will benefit from Glickman's advocacy.

It's hard to blame anyone for pulling what strings they can, given the overwhelming demand for tickets and the historic significance of the first black chief executive.

Thousands upon thousands of people have requested the tickets from members of Congress, forcing some lawmakers to tell constituents to stop calling. And those are just requests to be admitted somewhere within four blocks of the Capitol when Obama raises his right hand and takes the oath of office.

West of the Capitol complex, the unticketed masses will gather the length of the National Mall with next to no chance of seeing Obama sworn in.

More than a million people are expected, quite possibly more than the record 1.2 million people who attended Lyndon B. Johnson's inauguration in 1965.