Indiana politicians consider Super Bowl ticket offer

February 4, 2010

The opportunity to buy Super Bowl tickets from the Indianapolis Colts forced some elected officials to make a tough decision.

And we’re not talking about ethics. Rather, the question was whether to shell out $800 per ticket, plus hotel costs and airfare.

Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jackie Nytes would prefer to spend her money on the symphony or theater, but the Democrat decided to suck it up and head to Miami so she could see what’s in store for her constituents when Indianapolis hosts the Super Bowl in 2012.

“I don’t have this kind of money to throw around,” Nytes said. “I’m making choices.”

Nytes will be one of several city councilors in attendance through a special offer from the Colts. The team, which plays in a largely taxpayer-funded stadium, set aside tickets for elected officials.

The tickets are priced at face value, but the general public can't score the seats for the same price. On the secondary market, Super Bowl tickets are selling from about $900 to $8,000 apiece.

Although the tickets aren't free, they are considered a lobbyist gift, at least in the state of Indiana. The team must report any tickets they sell to state legislators within seven days of the transaction. As of this morning, the team had not filed any reports with the Indiana Lobby Registration Commission.

Members of Congress do not have to report Super Bowl tickets as a lobbyist gift.

IBJ talked to a smattering of congressmen, state legislators and city councilors about their Super Bowl plans. Some who attended the game in 2007 aren’t going this year, though they wish they could.

“It’s just a pretty expensive trip,” said Rep. Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

U.S. Rep. Dan Burton would like to be in Miami again this year, but the Republican has too many events going on in his home district, press secretary John Donnelly said. U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, who recently announced that he plans to retire because of his wife’s illness, also won’t be repeating the trip.

That might leave U.S. Rep. Mike Pence as the only member of the Indiana congressional delegation in Miami. The Republican from Columbus went to the Super Bowl in 2007, and this year he’s taking his son. “He only goes when the Colts are playing,” press secretary Daniel Son said.

Other congressmen said they weren't going, or weren't clear about their plans. Sen. Evan Bayh’s press secretary didn’t respond to an inquiry. This is the first year that U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, a Democrat from Indianapolis who was elected in 2008 to a seat held by his grandmother, could take advantage of the Colts’ special offer himself. As of late Wednesday, Carson had not decided whether to go, spokeswoman Glendal Jones said.

Colts officials, who are already in Miami, could not be reached for more information. The Indianapolis Star has reported that the Colts received ticket requests from 32 legislators and four members of Congress, as well as 26 of the 29 city-county councilors. Republican City-County Council member Bob Cockrum does not expect to see nearly that many of his colleagues in the stands. Based on conversations at meetings this week, Cockrum said perhaps half the council members will be in attendance.

This year will be a second trip for Cockrum, who said, “It’s sort of the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Cockrum, who has four children, had to make some tough choices about how to use that second ticket. In 2007, he decided to take his middle son, who worked for a hotel and had access to a discounted room.

This year, Cockrum’s youngest son, who was miffed about being passed over three years ago, is taking the ticket.

The rare opportunity to attend one of the most-watched events in professional sports might be a perk of elected office, but Cockrum does not think it’s inappropriate.

“Anyplace I’ve ever worked, there have been perks,” he said. That includes free parking spaces and holiday turkeys, he said.

Gov. Mitch Daniels will be in Miami, but not just for fun. Daniels’ schedule includes some meetings about economic development and with the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee. On Saturday, Daniels will host about 300 people at an Indiana Economic Development Corp. event in Coconut Grove.


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