Entertainment

Free ‘Hamilton’ Tickets for Politicians in California? Hmm

For a group that claims to care about the working class of this country, some Democrats in the Golden State have a funny way of showing it

The hit play “Hamilton” made it to the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood last year — and the show’s stint there sold out almost instantly.

People paid hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars to get good tickets via resale.

However, the theatre offered Los Angeles City Council members free pairs of tickets for opening night, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times that appeared Saturday morning.

Democratic council President Herb Wesson apparently took this offer to the extreme: He accepted six free tickets last August, valued at around $1,000 as estimated by his office, the LA Times piece indicated.

The California limit on gifts to an elected official is $470.

“Wesson later reimbursed the company for the tickets, according to his spokeswoman, Vanessa Rodriguez,” the Times piece noted. “Under state law, a gift does not count as a gift if the politician reimburses the giver within 30 days of receiving it. But Wesson paid the theater back only months later, with two checks in December and January, according to his office.”

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To be sure, not all members of the city council accepted the pricey ticket offer. And as the Times piece noted, “politicians can legally accept them [free tickets] if they stay within city and state rules, which include restrictions on who can give them gifts and how much they can accept. Those rules are meant to prevent especially lavish gifts from swaying government decisions or corroding public trust.” The article made clear, too, that “the Pantages is owned by Ned Pan Inc., which provided the tickets to lawmakers, according to its attorney, Andrew Kugler.”

But the mix of entertainment-related offers and politics is a little more than eyebrow-raising: Back in 2015, lawmakers in the Golden State accepted over $32,000 worth of gifts related to sports alone that year. Around half of that ($16,551) related to golf (trips, tournaments, clubs, balls etc.), the LA Times reported earlier.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D) had half of his $556 ticket to a Los Angeles Dodgers playoff game paid for by a political consulting group, while a Los Angeles law firm picked up the other half; San Francisco Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D) watched the Golden State Warriors advance to the NBA finals with a $460 ticket paid for by the chief executive of an Oakland health care company; and Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D) of Carson was given $800 tickets to the Toyota Grand Prix in Long Beach by a law firm. Gipson reimbursed the firm $341 so it would be valued at just $1 under the limit for a gift from a single source, $459.

These kinds of gifts or at least the highly inviting offers must be alarming to the state’s constituents.

There is a reason the House of Representatives will not allow its members to accept gifts above $50: gifts could also be considered bribes if they come in at higher amounts. It is also worth noting that no gifts from lobbyists are allowed to be accepted, to limit corruption.

There are steps in place to limit corruption in Washington, D.C. Remember, this is also why the messages of President Donald Trump resonated with so many people during the 2016 presidential campaign, when he said he wanted to “drain the swamp” and that he was self-funding his campaign.

Related: Trump Is Not the Only President Who Promised to ‘Drain the Swamp’

Democratic politicians in California claim to represent the people and at the same time, many are accepting personal gifts or exclusive offers from private entities or others while in office.

The activity gives people a reason to believe these public servants are not acting in the best interests of the constituents they were elected to represent.

Plus, it’s not a great idea for any politician to take advantage of special privileges or handouts connected to expensive events — then to talk about how the American economic system is “rigged” and that hardworking Americans should pay more in taxes to make up for it.

Related: ‘California, We Have a Problem,” Jeff Sessions Declares

If such California politicians want to find and fix a system that is rigged, perhaps they should look at some of their own practices.

If they want to claim they represent ordinary people, perhaps they should start by limiting their own participation in exclusive activities.

As a commenter on the LA Times piece noted Saturday, the tickets to the play “Hamilton” were “the perfect gift for the virtue-signaling crowd of corrupt, elitist politicians!”

Related: If Celebs Cared About Their Causes, the Oscars Wouldn’t Cost $44 Million

Another one wrote, “Meanwhile, the garbage is piling up … Garbage companies [are] overcharg[ing] for not doing their jobs after being awarded monopolies by this piggish city government. The city is being turned into a homeless encampment, while a third-class, one-bedroom apartment rents for $2,000 a month.”

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

(photo credit, article image: Hamilton the Musical, CC BY 2.0, by Travis Wise)

Tom Joyce
meet the author

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

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