Staff says John Kerry paid fair market value for tickets in Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s suite

Senator John Kerry joined New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the Gillette Stadium sidelines Sunday before the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Houston Texans.
Senator John Kerry joined New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on the Gillette Stadium sidelines Sunday before the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Houston Texans.Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

The CBS Sports cameras made their traditional game-day pan of the owner’s box at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, catching not just Robert Kraft but also one of his highly recognizable guests: Senator John Kerry.

That prompted instant questions about how Kerry ended up in such rarified air, and whether the secretary of state-to-be paid his fair share to attend.

His staff insists he did.

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In response to a Globe query today, a Kerry aide said the senator personally paid what the team determined to be fair market value—$191 each—for a pair of suite tickets to Sunday’s AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and the Houston Texans.

The senator even charged them to his credit card, creating a record of the transaction.

A news release from the Patriots issued Jan. 4 touted a limited number of tickets being offered for sale to the general public.

“Playoff pricing is set by the NFL,” it said. “The individual ticket prices for the AFC Divisional Playoff Game are $198 (100 Level Sideline), $150 (100 Level Corner/End Zone), $150 (200 Level), $115 (300 Level Sideline/End Zone Rows 1-7) and $85 (300 Level Corner/End Zones Rows 8 and higher).

Suites are sold at one collective price. Last year, then-Senator Scott Brown was a guest in one that rented for $30,000 for another divisional playoff game, between the Patriots at Denver Broncos.

On Sunday, the team set the price for each individual seat within Kraft’s 50-yardline box.

Senate gift rules state:

“No member, officer, or employee shall knowingly accept a gift except as provided by the Gifts Rule. A member, officer, or employee may accept a gift, other than cash or cash equivalent, having a value of less than $50, provided that the source of the gift is not a registered lobbyist, foreign agent, or private entity that retains or employs such individuals. The cumulative value of gifts that may be accepted from any one source in a calendar year must be less than $100. Generally, gifts having a value of less than $10 do not count toward the annual limit.”

The rules add: “ A member, officer, and employee may accept a gift that is given on the basis of personal friendship, unless there is reason to believe that the gift was provided because of the individual’s official position and not because of the personal friendship. However, if gift exceeds $250 in value, members, officers, and employees must seek written approval from the (Senate Ethics) Committee.”

Kerry was seen before the game roaming the sidelines. At one pointed, he hugged head coach Bill Belichick.

During the game, the senator was in the row behind Robert Kraft and one of his sons, team President Jonathan Kraft. Kerry was captured when the television camera pulled back to show a broader array of suite occupants.

A second Kerry aide described the senator and Kraft as “longtime friends.”

The Patriots went on to defeat the Texans 41-28 to advance to next Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. It, too, will be played at Gillette Stadium.

A team spokesman did not return an e-mail seeking comment on Kerry’s attendance at the game, or his visit to the owner’s box.

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