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Images of Khao San Road at the Democratic National Convention


PUBLISHED: August 27, 2008

Anyone with experience making fake IDs in high school will feel right at home here at the Democratic National Convention. That’s because fabricating and bootlegging credentials—the passes needed to enter events—has long been considered good sport at party conventions. The fake ID industry, of course, is largely geared towards underage kids looking to get their hands on alcohol. Here in Denver, though, the goal is access. Credentials to the convention hall are the biggest prize but most of the associated parties and events also require an invitation and an accompanying credential for admittance.

Surprisingly, fake credentials are quite effective. Getting past the Secret Service may be tough, but at most events—including the main sessions at the Pepsi Center—many of the “security” personnel inside the Secret Service’s perimeter are essentially untrained volunteers, many of whom are looking for better access themselves.

An official looking piece of paper carried in a lanyard around your neck is required for any attempted event crashing. Credential fabricators employ several different strategies:

1. Create your own credential to fool security. Successfully crashing events with approach carries the most prestige in the credential fabricating community. Michael Keaton’s character in The Paper was convinced that “a clipboard and a confident wave will get you into any building in the world.” At party conventions a computer generated, professional looking, laminated credential goes a long way. All the better if your fake credential says “ACCESS” or “VIP” and is adorned with ostentatious American flags and bar codes. In an effort to be prepared for different kinds of events, credential fabricating entrepreneurs frequently come up with a generic “Democratic National Convention” credential as well as a separate media credential.

2. Hoard real credentials to stub in your friends. This approach can only be implemented if you have access to more than one real credential. Because event security doesn’t require a secondary admission check (e.g., stamp on the hand) and there is no rule prohibiting re-entry, the same credential can be used by many people, so long as a legitimately credentialed person can enter and exit multiple times to hand off the second credential to waiting friends.

3. Use a credential from a different event. This approach doesn’t require much work but is also the least likely to succeed. Nonetheless, it can work if the fabricator is dressed appropriately and approaches the security personnel with a sense of entitlement and purpose. Some fabricators choose to substitute an attitude of earnest confusion in place of purposeful entitlement in hopes of winning a sympathy admission (e.g., “Oh no, I accidently brought the wrong credential! This is so disappointing because my friends Jerry and Debbie are already inside!”).

4. Copy a real credential. The Pennsylvania delegation is legendary in this category and is known for having the most elaborate operation. For several conventions running, a number of Keystone State delegates have been assigned to the “credentials committee.” Their job has been to rent the most high-tech copy machine available and mass produce hundreds of copies of one of their state’s allotted and legitimate convention hall credentials for each night.

1 Comments

Gregg's picture
Gregg · 13 years ago
It’s disturbing that the Democratic convention can be accessed by tactics used by 7th graders to sneak into R rated movies. It makes one wonder why anyone bothers to get legitimate credentials in the first place. Very funny post.
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