Yankee Lobbyists on Taxpayers' Tab

Circling the bases: Documents reveal city paid the team's lobbyists and execs—for lobbying city and state officials

Skeezy as all this may be, lobbying experts say it's unlikely that any of it is illegal. State lobbying commission director David Grandeau explains that as long as the Yankee lobbyists registered with the state (they did) and the city didn't know ahead of time that its money was going to the likes of Bill Powers, it's all within the law. Quattlebaum adds, "I'm not sure that the writers of the lobby law would have anticipated exactly this situation."

While it's not uncommon for companies to get public money to train their executives in, say, language skills or conflict resolution, says Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs First, a national subsidy-watch group, "I can't recall any economic development contract specifically providing for executive salaries or lobbyist salaries. Given that the Yankees are expecting almost half a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies for their new stadium, it's outrageous to consider that taxpayers may be footing the lobbying bill too."

Parks officials refused comment on the lobbying figures. Calls to Bloomberg, Quinn, and Thompson weren't returned.

Giuliani's lease deal left the door wide-open for the city's ball clubs to dip into the public treasury by defining "stadium planning" as including "the preparation of studies, surveys, tests, analyses, estimates and designs, [and] architectural, engineering, design, financing, accounting, consulting, planning, surveying, environmental, land use, and legal services"—and specifically including team officials' prorated time as an allowable expense.

"The lease gives the Yankees an incredible amount of leeway," says Quattlebaum. "That language is incredibly broad."

In any case, no one in city government, it appears, was keeping tabs on the Yankees' spending. The parks department, though it holds the lease on Yankee Stadium, insists that the comptroller was responsible for auditing the planning deductions. Yet Thompson, who issues yearly audits of the team's maintenance costs—often making headlines when Steinbrenner's rent bill goes up a few hundred thousand dollars as a result—did not do the same for the planning deductions, and Thompson spokesperson Laura Rivera says the office has no intention of conducting an audit at this time.

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