By Peter Holzberger
Few things can land government officials in trouble faster than getting comped or discounted sports tickets. While former EPA Adminstrator Scott Pruitt was no stranger to scandal, one of his final fumbles in the weeks leading up to his resignation involved questions about how he obtained Rose Bowl tickets earlier this year, and whether he received those tickets as part of a quid pro quo.
According to Pruitt’s former director of scheduling, Millan Hupp, Pruitt bought the tickets from C. Renzi Stone, a member of the Oklahoma University Board of Regents. Federal law prevents government employees from accepting sports tickets as gifts, and requires they purchase them at market value. Questions loom for Pruitt because in addition to being a member of the OU Board of Regents, Stone is also CEO of a marketing firm with clients who currently have petitions before the Environmental Protection Agency, which Pruitt led until last week.
Congress has requested Stone turn over any documents pertaining to Pruitt’s ticket purchase so it can determine whether he followed federal law. So far, Stone has denied any wrongdoing and claims he simply connected Pruitt to the Rose Bowl box office.
While Pruitt may be out at EPA, his case is far from unique. Time and again, public officials get in hot water when they get tickets to highly sought-after events. A recent sample includes:
- Lawmakers who spend over $1 million on sports tickets with campaign finances
- Mayors and aldermen who accept baseball playoff tickets at face value
- City officials who prevent the public from seeing how they use sports tickets
As one Fortune 500 executive recently told us, “Tickets are like petty cash. And when you have millions of dollars of cash sitting around, people are going to do stupid things.”
We know about these scandals because the public has a legal right to peer into the workings of public officials and agencies. But what about private companies? We can tell you from firsthand experience that sports and live event tickets are just as abused by private corporations as they are by government officials. Most companies lack a real system to track how tickets are being used, and they’re just one audit away from their ticket misuse going public.
And now, with major changes like the new tax law and the move to mobile-only tickets, it’s getting harder for companies to hide what’s going on. Without a real ticket management solution in place, companies are in for a rough ride ahead.