Baseball’s sweet deal in D.C. endangered
The sweetest sweetheart deal in the annals of cities sucking up to baseball owners is unraveling. Darn those poor people in Washington for raining on the big cigars’ skyboxes.
The D.C. Council, the public body that tries to run Washington, just couldn’t bring itself to OK the financing deal for building a stadium that will house the Washington Nationals (the ex-Expos of Montreal).
The lead owner of the new Nationals? Fred Malek, longtime pal of the Bush family and a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group. (Suzan Mazur recounts a hilarious story about how Malek got Dubya on the Carlyle board—and how the board later dumped him.)
Back to bidness: The council’s move blindsided everyone, including D.C.’s mayor. To prove this is no game, the enraged Major League Baseball hierarchy (the only sports org in which one of the owners, Bud Selig, is the commissioner) pulled a Milton Bradley. The owners are now threatening that the entire deal may be off.
The original deal called for the public to bend over for the owners. The council merely insisted that the fat cats pour in more of their own money and use less of the public’s.
Makes sense, considering that D.C. is basically the poorest of America’s large cities. As I’ve pointed out a few times, America’s national pastime—milking the poor to help the rich—is in great shape, and sometimes America’s other national pastime squeezes our udders, too.
That’s particularly painful in D.C., because the income gap between rich and poor is wider there than in any other big burg.
Since the deal was unveiled this past summer, the Washington Post has been doggedly following the disgusting financial details. One of the latest pieces of news goes like this: Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf was the chief negotiator of the deal to bring baseball back to D.C. Now it turns out that his son Michael is in line to profit from a huge contract to plan the stadium.
Here’s how the Post‘s Thomas Heath and David Nakamura laid it down:
[Michael] Reinsdorf is the managing director and co-founder of International Facilities Group, a consulting firm started in 1995 to “provide development and management services to municipalities and professional sports owners,” according to the company’s Web site.
The agreement Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed in September with Major League Baseball calls for the city to build a stadium near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street in Southeast Washington. As part of the $440 million cost, the pact calls for the city to pay an estimated $3.7 million for baseball’s consultant on the stadium, also known as the team representative.
Mark Tuohey, chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, acknowledged in an interview that IFG has been discussed as a front-runner for the team representative job. IFG has been working for several months on the renovation of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, where the Washington Nationals are to play their first three seasons. And the company has advised the District on financial estimates for the proposed stadium. Major League Baseball has paid the roughly $100,000 fee for IFG’s services so far, city officials said.
Hope this all works out, and Washington gets the team, even if it requires this disgraceful bit of corporate welfare. Better for Dubya to be distracted by baseball (which you know he will be) than to have him available to front the neocons’ foreign and domestic policies. Go to the games, Bush, and leave us alone.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 16, 2004