Trump Backers Claim Fix Is In With Inauguration Tickets
By Evan Lips | January 5, 2017, 15:39 EST
Long-simmering quarrels between Trump backers and state GOP party officials are boiling over this week over access to presidential inauguration tickets.
A chain of emails obtained by New Boston Post show that Trump-supporting delegates to the Republican National Convention last July are fuming over their inability to get tickets to the president-elect’s swearing-in festivities in Washington D.C. later this month.
The Trump supporters are claiming the Massachusetts State Republican Committee is dragging its feet. But state GOP officials say it’s the Trump transition team’s fault.
Whatever the case, a flame war is blazing in cyberspace.
On Tuesday evening, emails show, RNC alternate delegate Tom Mountain of Newton contacted MassGOP Chairman Kirsten Hughes to inquire about inauguration tickets.
Mountain pointed out in his email to Hughes that a previous email he sent to her on December 30 had gone ignored.
“With just over three weeks left until the Presidential Inauguration, I trust and anticipate that, in your capacity as chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party, you will shortly inform the Massachusetts RNC Delegation, of which I was a part, how and when your office will be facilitating Inauguration tickets to us,” Mountain wrote in his initial December 30 emails.
On Tuesday, four days later, Mountain followed up with Hughes.
“I have been informed by RNC delegates from another state, who have long since received their inauguration tickets from their Republican State Party leadership, that it is routine for the leadership of the state party to facilitate such tickets for its RNC Delegation,” Mountain wrote. “Yet that has not been the case with MassGOP.”
“This appears to be the culmination of a disturbing trend with your office.”
“To many of us in the Mass. Trump Campaign, it was obvious as early as last spring that MassGOP would not support Mr. Trump, which is why we formed a Trump Slate, and won eight of nine districts in the caucuses. But even after Mr. Trump secured the Republican nomination in Cleveland, the Mass. Trump Campaign was effectively shut out of your regional MassGOP offices. For the duration of the campaign we were essentially on our own. Nevertheless, we dedicated ourselves to the arduous task of electing Donald Trump. And we prevailed. Yet now members of our delegation have been compelled to solicit their Democrat Congressman to try to secure tickets to the Inauguration of a President for whom they devoted much of the past year to electing. This is not only demeaning to the Mass. Delegation but it also reflects negatively on your office. If in your capacity as Chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party/MassGOP you can not or will not arrange tickets for our Delegation, at the very least there is an ethical obligation to state the reasons for this omission.”
Hughes could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
But a state party spokesman provided a statement to New Boston Post.
“The MassGOP is working closely with activists and delegates to accommodate all the requests we are able to,” said GOP spokesman Terry MacCormack.
Mountain’s reference to delegates turning to Democratic members of the state’s Congressional delegation for inauguration tickets was the subject of a Boston Herald report that appeared Thursday morning in which Trump alternate delegate Parson Hicks, who cast the state’s votes during the RNC, described the situation as “totally bizarre,” one which shows “more of the division we’ve seen throughout this entire election cycle.”
Reached Thursday, Mountain told New Boston Post that he’s heard from Trump delegates in other states — for example, North Carolina — who have reported that they have already received their allotment of inauguration tickets.
“Hughes and the MassGOP are trying to deflect the fault to the incoming Trump administration,” Hughes maintained. “Let’s say the Trump Inaugural Committee may be a little slow, we understand that, they’re new, but it takes due diligence for state party leadership to get the tickets — and in our case, they have made it clear they have never been on board with Trump.”
According to Hicks’s email, obtained by the NewBostonPost, she too heard from other Trump delegates in neighboring states who have said they’ve already received their tickets.
“Thanks for speaking up Tom as I have also been concerned by this display of events,” Hicks wrote on Tuesday in response to Mountain’s email to Hughes.
“Unlike you, however, I have nothing to risk here so I will speak my truth plainly. After hearing nothing from our state, I too had reached out to my Republican friends in other states for advice as this is a monumental moment for many of us. After my fellow Republicans got over the shock of what almost seems like the holding hostage of tickets by MassGOP from the delegation, I too was advised to reach out to my Democratic Congressman for tickets. And yes, that was not the most fun experience but we are now almost two weeks away with no news. It is unfortunate but I personally wasn’t going to have my own state party be the obstacle that kept me from attending. I’m sure the leadership has their reasons, and like Tom and many others, I sure would love to hear them.”
The Herald report noted that Hughes responded to the delegates within an hour of being asked by the newspaper about the perceived rift.
In her emailed response, obtained by New Boston Post, Hughes noted that she “appreciated” the patience of delegates and added that she is awaiting word from the “Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) about tickets and credentials that will be available through the Massachusetts Republican Party.”
Trump’s inaugural committee, Hughes added, “is a separate organization from the RNC and the state parties, and coordinates ticketing for events related to the inauguration (additionally, Congress is responsible for the specific details of the swearing-in ceremony).”
“At this time, the PIC has not yet determined the ticket allocations available to any of the 50 State Republican Parties. Yesterday, the PIC asked Republican State Chairs across the country to send them lists of those seeking tickets. Per that request, we have sent a list of convention delegates, convention alternates, and state committee members to the PIC as high-priority requests. We expect to hear from the PIC in the coming days and will update you as soon as possible.”
Charles Grillo Jr., a Trump delegate and state committee member, told New Boston Post on Thursday that he knew to reach out to his congressman, U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, a Brookline Democrat, to secure inauguration tickets. Grillo said he was first rejected by Kennedy’s office but contacted the following day and told he had several tickets reserved.
GOPers in other states also knew to contact their Congressional members. For example, Alex Triantafilou, chairman of Ohio’s Hamilton County Republican Party, told New Boston Post on Thursday that he acquired reservations for his four inauguration tickets though his congressman, Republican U.S. Representative Steve Chabot.
“I think at least a courtesy email to delegates from MassGOP would have been a good idea though,” Grillo added.
Mountain said the silence from Hughes has been one of the most frustrating aspects of the ordeal.
“She only responded to us late Wednesday after the Herald started calling her,” Mountain said, referring to Hughes. “That’s what it took for her to respond.”
On Wednesday, as frustrations between Trump delegates and Hughes mounted, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that the ticketing process would be unveiled by JCIC Chairman Roy Blount on Thursday.
Just after 11 a.m., the committee unveiled the tickets:
— JCCIC (@JCCIC) January 5, 2017
Blount explained in a press release that the JCICC will be releasing tickets to Congressional members on Monday, January 9, with each member’s respective office “responsible for distributing their allotment of tickets to their constituents.”
Grillo noted in his interview with New Boston Post that the ticket saga involving Trump backers and MassGOP prompted him to seek out a delegate who attended then-President-elect George W. Bush’s inauguration in 2001. Grillo said the delegate told him that tickets were issued “a month in advance.”
“I don’t want to accuse anyone unless I have evidence of the facts, but I do know there are delegates who have already committed to spending $900 a night on hotel rooms,” Grillo pointed out. “I’m not for creating any more rifts — let’s get the facts straight and trust the process.”
Chanel Prunier, who was ousted from her position as MassGOP state committeewoman in last spring’s party election and attended the RNC as a delegate for then-presidential candidate, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, said in an email Thursday that there is “absolutely a rift” between the state’s Trump backers and MassGOP leadership.
“I think they’re working to fix it, and this situation doesn’t help that,” Prunier added.
Governor Charlie Baker, who refused to back Trump in the general election and said he didn’t vote for him in November, plans to attend the inauguration January 20.
Dean Cavaretta, a Trump delegate who also served as Trump’s campaign director for Massachusetts, told New Boston Post on Thursday that he doesn’t know the real reasons behind the ticket delay.
“I certainly just want to make sure we take care of our people and that we’re all headed in the same direction,” Cavaretta said about Trump supporters and MassGOP leadership.
Asked if he had already secured inauguration tickets, Cavaretta laughed.
“I’m working on it myself,” he said. “But my main message to both sides is that I have faith in us to come together — we’re the majority party nationally now.”
Mountain was less optimistic, especially regarding Hughes’s ability to seal apparent fractures within the party.
“She’ll go down there for the inauguration, hang out with her rich GOP friends, party hard, and will stay away from Trump’s signs with Governor Charlie and then go home,” said Mountain.