Sunday, December 4, 2011

SEC Investigating Dirty Baseball Stadium Deal in Miami

Anyone living in the state of Minnesota who doubts that the brakes should immediately be placed upon the Vikings stadium deal needs to read this story published yesterday by Yahoo Sports about how the Securities and Exchange Commission woke up from its employees surfing porn on their office computers and realized that they were shocked, SHOCKED to discover dirty dealings in the public financing of the Miami Marlins' new baseball stadium:
For two decades now, Major League Baseball has funded its rise from corporate slacker to gilded cash cow on the backs of taxpayers bullied into building new stadiums. It’s a marvel the government took so long to sniff out the rot that emanates from these deals, though not much of a surprise that the Miami Marlins were the target when they did.

The Security and Exchange Commission on Thursday launched guided warheads at the Marlins, requesting the team’s financial records, communications with MLB officials including commissioner Bud Selig, minutes of meetings with local government leaders and political campaign-contribution information, according to a report in the Miami Herald.

While the subpoenas issued by the SEC do not explicitly detail the purpose of the investigation, the feds’ motives are evident: They want to understand how, exactly, a group of county commissioners agreed to fund 80 percent of the Marlins new stadium, which cost more than $600 million, without ever seeing the team’s financial records – and whether bribes had anything to do with it.

This just got real.

Very real.

Until now, the Marlins were another rich corporation trying to get richer on the backs of its fans. Teams everywhere do it. Cities kowtowing to those that want them to pay for stadiums is as commonplace as it is abhorrent.

The Marlins pushed the limits on exactly how much a team can hold its city hostage. They cried poverty and threatened to move unless they got a new stadium while refusing to disclose their financial records – records that were later leaked and showed a team swimming in tens of millions of dollars in profits and funneled millions more to a corporation run by team owner Jeffrey Loria.

Miami-Dade County commissioners nevertheless voted 9-4 in favor of taking out loans that will cost the county $2.4 billion over 40 years to help build the stadium in Little Havana, about two miles west of the city. Critics across south Florida panned the deal, which gives the Marlins all stadium-related revenue and imbued the team with a new attitude entering this offseason.
The article then goes on to spell out the much larger and more long term problem:
And such deals are everywhere in baseball. Since 1991, 25 of the game’s 30 teams have built a new stadium or undertaken major renovations on an old one. Baseball’s rise from a $2 billion industry 20 years ago to one verging on $8 billion a year is correlated directly to its stadium boom, which turned baseball from a staid game played in cavernous buildings to one in more intimate venues suited for families.
ANYONE who decries public money being given to the unemployed, or to welfare mothers, or to those without health insurance who does not FIRST decry practices like this is completely full of shit. Sports team owners are the one-percenters' one percenters. They are among the wealthiest members of our society. For them to be given billions of taxpayer dollars to build their fancy sports palaces is absolutely unconscionable. This is a particularly important point that needs to be made as sports fans tend to be among the most conservative groups in our society. They need to wake up and realize how they are being ass raped by the owners of the teams to whom they give their hard earned dollars.

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