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Chicagoans Go to Extremes to Get into Obama Rally

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Chicagoans Go to Extremes to Get into Obama Rally

Voters are hitting the internet for tickets to Obama’s Election Night Rally in Grant Park. (AP Photo)

If you’re a supporter of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, what would you give to be at his election night rally in Chicago’s Grant Park? Massages, computer help, money, romance? Well, get in line because people are already offering those things. That’s right, tickets to Obama’s election night shindig were snapped up in a matter of a few hours Tuesday afternoon. Chicago has now sprouted a small but lively underground economy where tickets to the event are getting bartered, swapped, sold and traded.

Just after 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon—without any warning—an email went out to Obama supporters in Illinois.

It said they could sign up for tickets to his election night party in Grant Park on a first-come-first-serve basis.

By late afternoon, they were all gone—and requests were funneled into a waiting list. Eventually, the waiting list got so long, that the campaign cut that off too.

HAWK: I was working all day. And I was too busy to even check my email. So at the end of the day at about 6:00 I check my email. And I said ‘Oh my God! I’ve got to go and try to get this ticket.’

Ben Hawk is 30, and lives in Chicago where he works for an ad agency. Hawk says he’s been an Obama supporter since 2004.

HAWK: I saw him at the Democratic National Convention. I was watching it with my parents. And at the end of his speech, all of us were floored.

Hawk says supporting Obama was a political awakening for him. He says he saw his Republican father voted for a Democrat for a first time.

And Hawk, who’d never contributed money to a campaign, ended up donating money to Obama’s presidential run—several times actually.

As soon as he saw the email about the election night rally, Hawk says he immediately put his name in, and crossed his fingers.

HAWK: Then I got a form email back saying you have been entered into the waiting list. This is not a ticket.

Like hundreds, if not thousands of others, Hawk didn’t get tickets to the Obama event.

But he quickly realized there was another way.

The email to people who got tickets said they would have to bring a picture ID proving they were the person who got the ticket.

But the email also said everyone would get to bring a guest.

The way Hawk saw it, those guest slots were his chance. He logged onto the classified Website Craigslist.

HAWK: I posted a wanted posting saying like I will pay for tickets to go. And I got three responses back.

One response offered Hawk two tickets. Another warned him that anyone selling two tickets was probably scamming him because the ticket winner’s name would be on one.

The third response was from a ticket holder who offered Hawk his guest spot if Hawk would agree to pay the guy $1,500.

HAWK: I formulated like 6 different responses, and then I just deleted it.
CALHOUN: What were some of the responses?
HAWK: Oh. Expletive expletive. I don’t want to say it on the radio. I was upset, but then I just let it go.

If you search Craigslist now, you’ll find dozens and dozens of listings.

As they’ve multiplied, the ticket seekers have made their pleas more desperate—more inventive. One person offered massages. Another offered a date, saying “maybe it could turn into more than one night with me you and Obama...smiley face...haha. Who knows right?”

The ticket holders have responded by making their demands more daring—one suggests White Sox tickets. Another told people “get creative.”

CALHOUN: Hi. How are you?
SHEEHAN: Good. How are you?
CALHOUN: Good.
SHEEHAN: Come on in.

Maggie Sheehan is a 20-year-old Junior at DePaul University. Last night, she was cramming for a big biology test—and struggling with a harsh reality.

SHEEHAN: The brain is a very complicated organ.

Like Ben Hawk, Maggie Sheehan didn’t get the email about tickets until it was too late.

SHEEHAN: I was in biology lab for 2 and a half hours. So I didn’t the email for 2 and a half hours.
CALHOUN: Biology is making life hard these days.
SHEEHAN: Biology is making life very hard these days.

After getting waitlisted for tickets, Sheehan sat down with her roommate to write a Craigslist ad trying to buy tickets—and just like Ben Hawk they had to ask themselves. How much is it worth to me?

SHEEHAN: I said, ‘Would you pay 40 if I paid 40?’ and she said sure.

The two offered $80 for two guest spots.

And so far, they’ve had no luck.

CALHOUN: Alright so if someone came to you and said, ‘Got two spots. Going to give them to you for 150 bucks.’
SHEEHAN: I mean I would love to say yes. I would love to, but I don’t know if it’s possible.

Sheehan confessed to me that she’s pretty discouraged at this point, adding that she has a secret hope that a certain Chicagoan might hear her on the radio.

And that that was part of the reason she took time away from study to talk to me. She even came up with a pitch.

SHEEHAN: I’ll be Maggie the College Student instead of Joe the Plumber. You know, the average Joe trying to get her way into the election.

But the heart of all the backroom dealings isn’t the buyers really. It’s the sellers.

The people who got something for free—and then realized that all of a sudden, they had something that thousands of people wanted desperately.

ADAM: When you have something of value. Your natural inclination is to try and get value for it. That’s capitalism right?

Adam, who asked that I not use his last name, is one of the people on Craigslist offering up his guest spot.

Out of many people contacted, he was the only one who would agree to talk. Adam told me he knows he could get a lot of money for his guest spot, but at least now, that’s not how he’s going to pick go gets his second ticket.

ADAM: It’s not about the money at this point. It’s about who wants to be there the most. And who’s willing to be the most creative.
CALHOUN: This is like a huge amount of power that you’ve got.
ADAM: I know. (laughs) I was joking with my friend the other night. The way the requests are rolling in—I said to my friend, ‘This must be what it feels like to be a really hot chick and have people groveling at your feet all the time.’ On some level I feel bad because I’ve got this power. I don’t want to wield it for evil, so to speak, but at the same time, it’s kind of fun.
CALHOUN: It’s kind of like Spiderman, right? With great power comes great responsibility.
ADAM: Right. Exactly.

Adam admitted that if someone offered him a thousand dollars, he would have a hard time turning it down. But he told me that the leading contender out of the dozen or so offers he’s gotten isn’t a cash offer.

He said he’s leaning towards a college student from Ohio—who’s volunteered for the campaign.

In exchange for his ticket, she’s offered Adam homemade cookies and free cello lessons.

I’m Ben Calhoun, Chicago Public Radio.

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