Interior can treat lawmakers, officials to free concert tickets under new guidelines

Interior can treat lawmakers, officials to free concert tickets under new guidelines
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The Department of the Interior will be able to treat members of Congress and the executive branch to free concert tickets under new rules released Tuesday.

The rules spell out how the Interior secretary and other employees can use tickets that come through a department contract with the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, located outside of Washington, D.C.

The venue has provided free tickets to the department since the 1970s, something the department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has advised against for almost as long.

An agreement between Interior and the nonprofit that runs Wolf Trap early this month once again guaranteed eight tickets per show to the secretary, reaching an estimated value of $43,000 in entertainment per year.

The contract renewed calls from the OIG to come up with a process for managing how the tickets are distributed. Earlier this month, the department said they’d spoken with ethics officials about how to handle the tickets, but did not provide details about what that process would be.


The guidelines, distributed Monday, say tickets can be used to better understand Wolf Trap’s operations and to “engage in dialogue” with government officials who have oversight of the department, or anyone with whom the department would benefit from a closer working relationship.

The tickets could also be given to other Interior employees as a recognition for good work or even given to journalists if part of an effort to show the importance of public lands and cultural resources.

The secretary’s office will approve the tickets in writing and identify which of the ticket criteria is being met. Anyone using the tickets cannot have more than one guest and may not access the Encore Circle Lounge.

OIG said they had not yet had time to review the guidelines, though they told The Hill earlier this month that they wanted to see something in writing.

“These tickets have not been handled appropriately in the past," Nancy DiPaolo, director of external affairs for Interior's inspector general, said at the time. "There needs to be a transparent policy for how they give out and account for these tickets."