According to https://www.whitehouse.gov/participate/tours-and-events

Public tour requests must be submitted through one's Member of Congress.

My question is… why is that requirement present? Why not just make it so that you can schedule tours through whitehouse.gov itself? Why introduce a middle layer?

  • 6
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not really a question about how to travel but asking why an organization has arranged its procedures in an inconvenient way
    – Calchas
    Sep 5, 2015 at 18:40
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    I would assume it's to reduce the demand. After all, the white house is not a museum but the actual workplace of the POTUS and his staff. Having hundreds of tourists going in and out every day would interfere with their work, not to mention security. So they decided to make white house tours a perk exclusively for those people the congressmembers want to impress.
    – Philipp
    Sep 5, 2015 at 19:27
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    @Karlson I seriously doubt it. As I said, helping constituents get stuff from the government is one role of members; that's the normal way to ration out this sort of thing.
    – cpast
    Sep 6, 2015 at 3:34
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    @Karlson No, representatives do not elect the President. Nor do presidential election results in congressional districts matter in 48 out of 50 states (in those states, all electoral votes go to whoever wins the whole state). More likely by far is that members of Congress are the ones who appropriate money to pay for the tours, which is a big reason congressional offices can help arrange tours for lots of places.
    – cpast
    Sep 6, 2015 at 4:09
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    @Karlson Members of Congress are not electors; the Constitution explicitly forbids them from being chosen. Electors are an entirely different set of people, part of a slate selected by a party based on people who are quite loyal to that party, and chosen as a single bloc by voters; with the possible exception of Maine and Nebraska, they have zero connection to congressional districts. The Electoral College is party loyalists chosen anew every election; it is not a standing body.
    – cpast
    Sep 6, 2015 at 4:37

1 Answer 1


Actually it seems that the ticket distribution moved to Members of Congress only to combat White House Ticket scalping going back to Clinton era.

And then under George W. Bush under the claim that tours are free so noone should profit from it:

''The White House welcomes large numbers of visitors, consistent with previous administrations,'' said the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer. ''The tours are free. We discourage the practice of having vendors or outside groups make a profit by charging unsuspecting tourists, including any tour that would charge money for access to the White House even as part of a larger tour.''

The unguided tours were still allowed on a first come first served basis by waiting in line:

They recommend that visitors get their feet in the front door by standing in line at the White House Visitors' Center (the line sometimes starts before 5 a.m.) or by contacting their representatives in Congress, who receive tickets for guided tours for their constituents. (The public tours are unguided.)

You can take a look at Wikipedia Article on White House Visitors Office which has a lot of good references on the changes to tours over the years but ticket distribution went completely to Members of Congress in 2003 as an additional "security" measure following the 9/11 attacks.

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