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A Big-Ticket Association

Still, Secretary of the Senate filing shows that the publicly traded company hired Public Strategies Inc. on Feb. 5 to lobby “antitrust issues relating to business combination with Ticketmaster.”

Lee Godown, Rep. Loretta Sanchez’s (D-Calif.) longtime chief of staff, and Daniel Kohns, Rep. Mike Honda’s (D-Calif.) former communications director, both registered on behalf of the firm and Live Nation.

A Live Nation source agreed privately that this week’s hearing was little more than a formality, since the proposal really just needs the Justice Department sign off on the deal — and that the online ticket debacle is more of a distraction than a legal hurdle.

“The Bruce Springsteen-Ticketmaster flap was a bit of a surprise, but is not really related to the deal,” the source said. “There’s nothing that a merger with Live Nation will do that changes that scenario. It’s just what happens when you have bad P.R. at the wrong time.”

Numerous sources also confirmed that Live Nation is in the process of enlisting Democratic uber-lobbyist Joel Jankowsky of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The onetime aide to former Speaker Carl Albert (D-Okla.) did not respond to repeated attempts to discuss his possible hiring by the company.

In addition to Pascrell, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also recently asked federal investigators to explore the alleged ticket switcheroo, expressing doubt at Tuesday’s hearing that Ticketmaster’s computer servers actually failed.

“They’ve said that this clever arrangement was caused, in part, by a ‘malfunction.’ Given what Ticketmaster stood to gain by directing consumers to its own resell site, the episode seems to be much more about money-making than about ‘malfunction,’” Schumer said at Tuesday’s hearing, according to a statement distributed by his office. “Ticketmaster has apologized for the incident, but to my knowledge still hasn’t provided any detail as to how this happened. ... We need answers, not apologies.”

Schumer, as well as other lawmakers and legal experts, also hinted that the Springsteen ticket mess likely will pale in comparison to the scrutiny expected by Obama’s new Justice Department.

The Center for America Progress’ David Balto, who testified at Tuesday’s hearing, said in an interview this week that the proposed merger will be a test anti-trust case for new DOJ officials.

Balto called the case a textbook example of why lawmakers early last century set out to bust up unfair business practices by massive enterprises.

“One of the reasons that the anti-trust laws were passed by Congress was that it was a favorite sport of monopolists to go around and acquire their potential or nascent rivals,” Balto said.

“Its unfortunate that we’ve allowed Ticketmaster to become a monopolist basically through very lax anti-trust enforcement, but there’s no way we should permit them to make it worse by acquiring the first firm that’s really well-positioned to challenge that monopoly in a decade,” Balto added.

Another realm in which the companies’ new lobbying and public relations teams may find themselves treading water is contending with Ticketmaster’s nasty reputation on the Hill, which reaches back to 1994.

Nearly 15 years ago, members of the Seattle grunge rock band Pearl Jam testified in a highly publicized Congressional hearing that Ticketmaster engaged in price fixing.

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