Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The big ticket in Chicago is for Barack Obama's election night rally. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says a million people are expected to descend on Grant Park tomorrow, but the event has a maximum capacity of about 70,000. That has created a lively underground economy in which tickets to the event are being bartered, swapped, and even though they're supposed to be free, sold. Chicago Public Radio's Ben Calhoun has our story.

BEN CALHOUN: Last week, the Obama campaign sent an email to Illinois supporters offering free tickets to the election rally, first come, first served.

Mr. BEN HAWK: I was working all day, and I was really too busy to even check my email. So at the end of the day, at about six o'clock, I finally checked my email and I said, oh my God, I've got to go and try to get this ticket.

CALHOUN: Ben Hawk's a 30-year-old Chicagoan, who's been an Obama supporter for years and says Obama's presidential run has changed his political life. Tuesday evening, he put his name in for tickets.

Mr. HAWK: I got an email back that was just a form email that says you have been entered into the waiting list. This is not a ticket.

CALHOUN: Hawk was devastated but realized there was another way. The rally tickets were non-transferable, but each ticket holder would get one guest. Hawk knew those guest slots were his chance. So he went to the classified website Craigslist.

Mr. HAWK: I posted a wanted posting saying like, I will pay for tickets to go.

CALHOUN: Hawk's classified ad is now one of hundreds. As the ads have multiplied, the ticket seekers have gotten more desperate and more inventive. One offered massages, another, pies, another, a date, saying, quote, maybe, it could turn into more than one night with me, you, and Obama. Smiley face, ha ha. Who knows, right?

Smelling desperation, the ticket holders have become more ruthless, asking as much as $1,500. One said he was looking for a beautiful woman. Those interested should send pictures, quote, nudes are OK. Disapproving Obama supporters soon chimed in. One called people selling tickets, quote, an unpatriotic bunch of losers. Others used names we can't even say on the radio.

Mr. ADAM KIRBY: When you have something of value, your natural inclination is to try and get value for it. That's capitalism, right?

CALHOUN: Adam Kirby is one of the people on Craigslist offering up his guest spot.

Mr. KIRBY: It's not about the money at this point. It's about who wants to be there the most and who is going to be the most creative.

CALHOUN: This is like a huge amount of power that you've got.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRBY: I know. I was joking to my friend the other night. The way the requests are rolling in, and I said to my friend, you know, this must be what it feels like to be a really hot chick and have people groveling at your feet all the time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRBY: On some level I feel bad because I've got this power, and 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, you know? With great power comes great responsibility, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRBY: Exactly.

CALHOUN: Adam says it'd be hard to turn down a thousand dollars. But when we talked, his leading contender was not a cash offer. He said he was leaning towards a college student who has volunteered for the campaign. In exchange for his ticket, she's offered Adam homemade cookies and cello lessons. For NPR News, I'm Ben Calhoun in Chicago.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.