Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why Those Free Sporting Event Tickets Matter

Many Indianapolis politicos yawn when I express concern about how much influence is peddled in the City of Indianapolis through free tickets to Colts and Pacers games that are doled out to politicians by the Capital Improvement Board, the franchise team owners and state and city lobbyists. The public corruption trial of Kevin Ring, who worked as a lobbyist for disgraced D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff and later for Barnes & Thornburg's Washington, D.C. office, points up just how much money is spent on sporting events by lobbyists. The National Journal reports that evidence has been tendered in Ring's trial by the prosecution showing that Abramoff's lobbying firm spent more than $5 million over a four-year period on sporting events at Camden Yard, FedEx Field and the MCI Center. That was just the amount spent on suites and did not include any additional money the lobbying firm spent on extra tickets, food and drinks. According to trial testimony by another colleague, Ring justified giving Super Bowl tickets and a free trip to the game to two congressional staffers as a "tribute" to members of Congress to give the appearance the trip didn't violate congressional ethics rules. The Ring associate, Todd Boulanger, told jurors that Team Abramoff used the same "lobbying tools" as other lobbyists in Washington.

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