John Moynihan thinks it would be exciting to see a president in person, and he’s willing to pay for the experience.

Just not too much.

“I saw where somebody on Craigslist was selling a pair of tickets (to see President Obama today in Portland) for $200,” said Moynihan, 30, a construction manager from South Portland.

“I posted that I was looking to buy some tickets, but I was really hoping someone would be giving them away,” he said. “If somebody contacted me with a reasonable offer, I’d consider spending money on them.”

And in Moynihan’s opinion, $200 was not reasonable.

A day before tickets became available to the public, people like Moynihan were posting messages on Craigslist saying they were willing to pay for tickets for Obama’s speech today at the Portland Exposition Building.

A ticket to see any president is, by definition, a hot ticket. And in this day and age, the Internet is the perfect place to buy and sell hot tickets.

Thousands of tickets for Obama’s speech were handed out free on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Expo. Each person was allowed two tickets.

By 11:13 a.m., someone had posted an item on Craigslist offering a pair for $200, cash only. By about 2:30 p.m., the posting was gone. Whether the seller was successful is unknown; they didn’t respond to the Portland Press Herald’s request for comment.

Why did people want to buy tickets online when they could have gotten them for free at the Expo?

Moynihan said he didn’t want to wait in the ticket line because it was too long. It began forming before 1 a.m. Wednesday, and included hundreds of people by around 9 a.m.

Others who went looking for tickets online said in their postings that they were working and couldn’t wait in line.

In one posting, a person offered to trade a mint-condition Nintendo DS game player for a ticket.

In another, a person who did wait in line offered to give one ticket away, with a catch: the ticket would go to the first person to collect an eclectic list of scavenger hunt items, including an original haiku, a coin of foreign currency, a toothpick, a picture of their mother on their cell phone, a good used book, a piece of bacon, a piece of Oakland Raiders paraphernalia — and a funny joke.

Moira Mack of the White House Media Affairs Office would not comment on the buying and selling of Obama tickets, except to refer to a line printed on the tickets: “This ticket is free and not for sale.”

But Kate Simmons, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said lawyers in that office were “not aware of any state law prohibiting the sale” of any tickets for profit.

Anyone who considers buying tickets to Obama’s speech online — or by any means, for that matter — may be targeted by scam artists who try to pass off fake tickets as the real thing. For years, scammers have been using the Web to sell counterfeit tickets to everything from concerts to sporting events. So it’s buyer beware.

Curt Fletcher of Portland, who works in real estate development, said he was a little hesitant at first to post his online ad looking for Obama tickets, for fear the transaction might be illegal.

Then he thought about all the ads he sees for people reselling tickets to concerts and sporting events, and figured this was a nobler cause.

“I’ve never seen a living president in person, and to see him talking about such an important issue (health care reform), I just thought I’d take a chance and see if anyone was selling,” said Fletcher, 41. “My intentions are honorable.”

By late Wednesday, he was still without tickets.

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]