Saturday, January 30, 2010

Politicians Line Up For Super Bowl Tickets

For the average person, attending a Super Bowl game is not attainable. Even if you were offered a ticket to the game at fair market value, the cost of travel and other costs associated with attending the event puts it out of your price range. According to the Star's "Behind Closed Doors" column, the Indianapolis Colts made tickets available to all City-County Councilors, state lawmakers and other elected officials in Indiana. At least 26 of the 29 councilors paid $800 a ticket for Super Bowl tickets. Another 32 state legislators, or 21% of all state legislators, purchased the tickets and four of Indiana's nine-member congressional delegation bought tickets.

The IBJ reported on package deals of $4,000 per person being offered by Ambassadair for a 4-day trip to the Super Bowl. That included hotel accommodations on the Gulf Coast, a long bus ride from Miami. According to the IBJ, Ambassadair made reservations on the Gulf Coast to avoid the crush in the Miami area. I'm familiar with how many of our councilors earn a living, and I don't think it would be too presumptuous of me to question how some of them can afford to go to the Super Bowl on their annual income. Recall that candidate Greg Ballard challenged my former councilor, Patrice Abduallah, on how he could afford to go to the Super Bowl four years ago when he couldn't afford to pay the property taxes on his home. Candidate Ballard said the public deserved to know who paid for the councilor's tickets and the cost of his trip as part of a call for ethics reforms in city government. That was then. We now know that Ballard has accepted gifts totalling well in excess of $50,000 since taking office, including country club memberships, junkets to Asia, Europe and Brazil, and free tickets to sporting events and concerts.

The City's ethics ordinance, like the state's lobby registration law covering the lobbying of state legislators, requires councilors to disclose any gift they receive during the year that total $100 or more. If a lobbyist and a councilor agree to conceal a gift, the public is not likely to ever know about the gift unless a whistleblower makes the undisclosed gift known. For example, if a public official stays in a condominium owned by a lobbyist while attending the Super Bowl, will that public official report the fair market value of that gift? I can tell you from my experience as a lobbyist at the State House during the 1990s, many unethical legislators and lobbyists hide some of their gifts.

The Colts' organization emphasizes that the tickets were offered to the officials at their fair market value. For the average person, though, your only hope of attending a Super Bowl is to purchase tickets through a broker. A quick check of one ticket broker showed seats in the nose bleed section going for about $1,700, while club seating ticket prices reached $5,000. All things considered, it looks like a big discount on ticket prices to me. It also is further evidence of just how much clout these professional teams exert over our public officials as a result of their ability to offer special treatment to them to attend sporting events. It explains why these officials can continually come back and ask working men and women to pay more taxes and provide more subsidies to the billionaire sports team owners without blinking an eye. The only way we are going to end this undue influence is to ban our public officials altogether from receiving any gifts or special offers that are not accorded to the public generally on equal terms.

UPDATE: I've been able to confirm the identity of the three councilors who did not purchase Super Bowl tickets. They are Christine Scales, Ed Coleman and Angela Mansfield. As a condition to the purchase of the tickets, councilors were asked to sign an agreement that they would not sell the tickets to someone else for more than the face value.


M Theory said...

Gary? I know you have a memory like an elephant.

So remind us.

Did the council in the Peterson Administration get Super Bowl tickets free or did they pay face value?

I honestly cannot remember, but I do remember it being discussed here.

Cato said...

The more chilling question is why so many councillors would even care about going to the game. This overwhelming preference for lowbrow entertainment bespeaks a comprehensive lack of class.

Have you ever watched a NFL game? $800 for 11 minutes of action, all for an outcome of questionable legitimacy?

No, thanks. I wish our Council would lead our City in demonstrating that there's a lot more to life than Football. Further, some of them must be fans of the Bears, Bengals or Oakland Raiders. Is it a qualification to office in Indy that an office seeker must like the Colts?

The Colts have eerily become the state religion in Indy. You must have noticed the creepy conformist mass wearing of blue on Fridays. Historically, such lockstep behaviors result in parts of the population being loaded onto boxcars.

I deeply worry that the NFL is teaching us precisely wrong means of viewing our countrymen. Recently, Melyssa commented that rampant NFL adulation is speeding us into "us vs. them" camps, with the "them" being fellow Americans.

The NFL is not a civilizing and harmonizing force at work in our country.

Paul K. Ogden said...

You can bet that many of these tickets are being sold to ticket brokers. Many of those tickets will net a 100% profit upon resale.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I'd like to know exactly which Councillors took the offer to buy two tickets apiece. Maybe those who declined will make their names known - all three of them. I'm surprised some enterprising reporter hasn't made a series of calls.

The Colts rep was saying it was a show of appreciation for their service. Isn't the public adulation enough? ;o)

Then again, the Colts SHOULD appreciate what the Councillors have done for them. But maybe they can show appreciation for the community instead and fund 50 randomly selected kids plus one parent to go to the games instead of those who claim to choose 'public service'.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Pat, I'd like to see Irsay pay the medical bills of the out-of-town Jets' fan who got his skull crushed by a two by four by one of our subhuman fans after last week's win. Nobody saw anything. Police made no arrests. The poor guy headed home the other day with a metal plate in his head and a huge medical bill from Methodist Hospital.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Public servants, huh? I guess they think that means the public is THEIR servant.
And once again, you can't tell the republicans from the democrats.

Hoosier in the Heartland said...

Cato said: "The more chilling question is why so many councillors would even care about going to the game. This overwhelming preference for lowbrow entertainment bespeaks a comprehensive lack of class."

I couldn't have said it better myself! Football is for mugs.

Downtown Indy said...

The other side of the story:

from a Staten Island website

Not proof one way or the other, but another viewpoint nonetheless.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I know that Christine Scales turned down the ticket offer. I don't know who the other two councilors were.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for sharing the link, Downtown Indy. It's hard to believe someone could carry out such a brutal attack only a block from the stadium and nobody could identify the perpetrator. The story doesn't suggest IMPD is too interested in solving the crime.

Cato said...

No, it's not hard to believe that this attack occurred. Recall the Bears fan who was killed following the Super Bowl.

The Colts are all Indy people have. The Colts matter more to these people than family or country.

These are small, bitter, violent trash people. The Colts draw out the worst in them.

Blog Admin said...

Coleman confirmed via Facebook that he did not purchase Superbowl tickets.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Wayne Madsen this weekend writes that it is common knowledge that most NFL games are fixed for maximum television coverage, and maximum advertising revenues, and because of the heavy dose of legal and illegal betting on games, so that professional football is about as competitive as professional wrestling. I am glad to read here that Christine Scales turned down the Colts offer.

Unknown said...

Cato(and Hoosiers in the HL),
So let me get this straight, because I like the Colts and the NFL I am a "mug" who is somehow harming the fabric of our Country? And you're comparing my fandom to the Holocaust??
Overkill much??
Sometimes a game is just a game. Whether or not you or I like the financial aspect of the stadium has nothing to do with the fact that people enjoy being fans.
I imagine that talk like that keeps you from being seen as rational on other issues that you may be right about.
Please forgive me when I say "Go Colts"!