Tag Archives: wasteful spending

Hell to the Redskins

The Green Bay Packers are renovating Lambeau Field without spending a dime of taxpayer dollars.

When compared to the $498 million fleecing Minnesota taxpayers just endured, the $6.4 million Virginia taxpayers will be spending — thanks to Republican Governor Bob McDonnell — on improvements to the Redskins’ training facilities looks like small potatoes.

Regardless of size, both the Vikings’ new stadium and the Redskins “deal” feature the same credulous acceptance of imaginary threats, insider dealing and Babbitt boosterism that undermines the democratic process and contributes to voter alienation.

In Minnesota Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used the threat of a Vikings move to California to put pressure on legislators. In Virginia you’d have thought Irsay Moving & Storage had trucks idling in the parking lot, ready to whisk the Redskins away if the state didn’t pony up to renovate facilities that supposedly didn’t compare with other NFL franchises.

Why do politicians fall for this horse hockey? I’ve heard better rationalizations from my teenagers. Evidently Minnesota politicians haven’t been keeping up with demographic trends. In LA they do like football, only it’s spelled “Fútbol” and they don’t wear helmets. Besides, LA used to have an NFL team, but it moved and the city survived.

The Redskins organization isn’t moving because it has over 15 years left on the FedEx Field lease. But what about team headquarters and practice facilities? What are the alternatives?

There’s Maryland, where the income tax rate is 55 percent higher than Virginia’s, and Prince Georges County where the last county executive is in prison. A higher tax climate and a lower ethical climate, what’s not to like?

Don’t forget the District. Its income tax rate is also 55 percent higher and two council members have been convicted of crimes in the past year. But DC is also the home of Councilman Mary Cheh (D–I Know What’s Best) the woman who intends to mandate the color of DC taxicabs.

There is also the “Native American” question that’s always on the fringes of Redskin Nation. In Massachusetts we have Democrat Elizabeth Warren who’s running for the US Senate and claiming to be 1/32nd Cherokee because she has high cheekbones. I don’t suppose it has escaped the notice of Redskins brain trust that the first three letters of Commissar Mary’s last name are also the first three letters of “Cherokee,” making her last name three–quarters Indian. How long do they think the team will be based in DC before Ms. Cheh decides the nickname “Redskins” is racist?

There is a better chance the US Park Service move the burial location of Gen. Thomas J. Jackson’s left arm, than there is of the ‘Skins moving in this decade.

Then there’s the backroom element of these travesties. In Minnesota the legislature essentially overturned a 1997 Minneapolis ordinance requiring a referendum if the city agreed to spend more than $10 million on a professional sports facility. They rightfully assumed city voters would take a dim view of throwing money at out–of–state sports plutocrats. Republican members in the House of Delegates also felt Virginia taxpayers would take a dim view of giving tax dollars to out–of–state sports plutocrats. They twice told Gov. McDonnell the House would not approve spending the money.

This put the governor in a box. Dwight Schar is a minority owner of the Redskins and since 2009 has contributed $165,000 to McDonnell and his political organization. This kind of money gets your phone calls returned. One has to assume Schar was interested in enlisting the governor’s help. McDonnell could have told Dwight that he tried twice with the legislature and was rebuffed, but he would continue to help with Richmond and Loudoun County.

But no, the governor decided to channel his inner Obama and do it by executive order (eliminating McDonnell as a surrogate Romney speaker when it comes to attacking Obama for his Imperial Presidency). The administration justified the use of “economic development” funds by claiming it means “more jobs and increased revenue for Virginia.”

Statistics bandied about by ‘Skins boosters claim the team supports 1,832 jobs “directly and indirectly” and generates “nearly $200 million in economic activity.” These numbers sound suspiciously like the Keynesian multiplier figures used for Obama’s government spending that has brought so much prosperity to us all.

An “investment” generates a return; this money is a subsidy that will not result in anything the state does not already have. Virginia’s low taxes and business climate should have been all the incentive the team needed, unless it suffers from Buffett’s disease.

Thanks to Gov. McDonnell’s leadership, an business that wasn’t going anywhere in the first place has decided to stay. A team that is named after Washington, D.C. and plays its games in Maryland will continue to wash its jocks in Old Virginny.

Unelected, Unaccountable Boards Like Spending Your Money

Dinner wine selections are somewhat limited under the new austerity rules at the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority.

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority that manages airports in the Washington, DC area and coordinates board member travel to luxury destinations.

MWAA is the unelected and unaccountable board former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (Obama’s choice to head the Democrat National Committee and current candidate for the US Senate) unilaterally selected to oversee construction of Metrorail to Dulles. The board is really great choice since the its prior transportation empire had consisted solely of a rattle–trap collection of ambidextrous shuttle buses at Dulles Airport that caused departing travelers to add an extra 30 minutes to the time necessary to arrive at the gate and arriving passengers to wonder if they were being taken to a re–education camp.

For Kaine’s handoff to work the board needed a source of revenue, preferably one insulated from voters. Kaine accomplished this by transfering ownership of the Dulles Toll Road to the board. The turnpike was worth nearly $3.52 billion and almost paid off, but Kaine didn’t even get a free E–ZPass transponder in return for his gift.

Once MWAA was the proud owner of a slightly–used toll road the board could use toll revenue to pay for construction of a rail line drivers might never use. All without any messy accusations of tax increases or votes in the legislature.

Plus the board is larded with liberal Democrat appointees from Maryland and DC that outnumber Virginia appointees. So regardless of any Republican cretins that mouth–breathing Virginia voters might send to Richmond, management of the project would be Democrat dominated.

Everyone wins except the taxpayer who wants a more direct voice in how his money is spent.

Kaine’s taxpayer–sponsored legacy was in danger when we last visited the board, because funding for Phase II of rail to Dulles was in doubt. The MWAA was insisting Virginia boost its contribution to $300 million and agree to a mandatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that specifies only union contractors — or contractors that agree to pay union wages and observe union rules — may bid on the project.

Board members made the usual justifications for the mandatory PLA: Labor goons won’t picket our homes and tinkle in the shrubbery. Unions will endorse Tim Kaine in the 2012 Senate race. Union PACs will continue to contribute millions to other campaigns to elect Democrats. And, oh yes, we might get around to building a railroad.

But that’s old bad news. The new bad news is all that free taxpayer and toll road money allows the MWAA to be as generous with themselves as they are with unions.

The U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general has blasted the board for a lack of adequate oversight on how it awards contracts and pays for travel and entertainment. In addition, the report says board member financial disclosure forms are approximately as detailed as those required to obtain a frequent shopper card at Ace Hardware.

My favorite quote from the report refers to an MWAA “culture that is largely unaccustomed to external audits…(and the board is) reluctant to provide access to key documents…”

However, the documents we have are bad enough.

Dennis Martire — the Tim Kaine appointee and labor union vice president who didn’t think it was a conflict of interest to vote for a PLA requiring union labor — also didn’t have a problem spending $9,192.30 of public money for a business–class airplane ticket to attend a conference in Prague.

Dennis also had a good time at an event in Hawaii (notice how these conferences never take place in say, Oklahoma City?) where dinner for board members came to a three–day total of $4,800. The menu included lobster, lamb, veal, crab cakes and seared hide of taxpayer.

Then there was the board dinner at the Ritz–Carlton where two bottles of wine totaled $238.

Fortunately, according to Jack Potter the new MWAA chief executive, there is no cause for alarm. The WaPost quotes him as assuring disgruntled taxpayers those expenses were “very exceptional” and in “no way represent what happens on a day–to–day basis.” We can rest easy knowing Potter now insists board members stick to the house red during catered lunches and the cleaning staff has been instructed not to order extra cheese on late night pizza deliveries.

And as for the $100,000 contract with Jenner & Block, a law firm the wife of board chairman Michael Curto works for, well the Harvard Business Review says word–of–mouth is the most effective form of advertising.

As a result, even the WaPost editorial board has grown disenchanted. It criticizes MWAA for “picking a largely gratuitous fight” over the PLA and urges it to drop the provision.

And I’m happy to report it did. In Wednesday’s meeting the board removed the PLA by an overwhelming vote, so a check for $150 million from Virginia is in the mail.

Now the only remaining hurdle is the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. If they opt out of phase II, it will delay and might kill the Dulles airport station. Maybe if the MWAA promises the rail line will be opened with a ribbon cutting and not a christening with a $15,000 bottle of Chateau Lafite, Loudoun supervisors will have fewer qualms about voting yes.