Paul Allen’s Stadium Deal
Paul Allen from the Seattle area is the world’s 8th richest man with over $10 billion in wealth — mostly from Microsoft stock. There are days when this booming stock goes up so that it increases Allen’s wealth by over $300 in one day!
This is a major reason why more and more taxpayers in Washington state are arching their eyebrows at Allen’s demand for $300 million of their tax dollars, plus more indirect public subsidies, to finance a new stadium for the Seattle Seahawks football corporation that he wants to buy.
Spend your own money, Paul, Washingtonians are telling him. Don’t ask us to subsidize your private enterprise. But Paul is clever and informed. He notices how professional sports companies are bringing cities and states to their knees all over the country by demanding huge taxpayer dollars to build their luxury-boxed arenas and stadiums or else they threaten to leave town. The shakedown is happening in Cincinnati, Baltimore, Indianapolis, St. Louis and is spreading rapidly.
So Paul is confident that Washingtonians will kneel down and open their taxpayer pockets to make him even richer. So confident is the man that he is spending over $4 million to finance a special statewide referendum on June 17th and spending over $3 million to saturate the state’s television stations with propaganda on how good this corporate welfare is for the citizenry.
To show his commitment, he pledges to invest $100 million into the deal which gives him 80% of all the profits from the bookings that he controls over this publically owned stadium. He has control as the ‘master tenant’, pays a pittance in annual rent, pays no property taxes, decides who uses the stadium and conference center and keeps all his financial and commercial information secret from the public. The project would even be exempt from public bidding requirements.
Taxpayer dollars that could go into education, general road repair, school and clinic maintenance, not to mention recreational facilities for youngsters in deprived neighborhoods, instead go toward another billion for Paul Allen.
Understood, Paul Allen tells the state’s taxpayers that he is doing them a favor. He doesn’t really want to buy the Seahawks, but he’ll save them from moving (notice the customary warning) on the backs of people who work every day and have a hard time making ends meet.
Allen’s deal (one could name it the Leona Helmsley philosophy, recalling her offhand remark “Only the little people pay taxes.”) will reward him handsomely. He controls the ‘personal seat licenses’ the advertising and stadium ‘naming rights,’ and numerous other privileges and rakeoffs in the fine print. He’ll get his $100 million back faster than a ball off a Jai-lai wall.
To anyone who says, well if we the taxpayers are going to pay for this project, why not buy the Seahawks outright and make them community-owned like the Green Bay Packers. Once again, the people are blocked. The National Football League (NFL) has a rule against any community ownership of its member teams. No more Green Bays. Teams need to move so they can pit one city against another in order to extract more subsidies and concessions from the politicians.
Paul Allen’s privately funded Referendum 48 and his big media buys are opposed by citizens and citizen groups who have little money and less time to expose the Allen deal’s propaganda. The ten billion dollar man is betting on a quickie election greased by a saturation television advertising blitzkrieg, that is unanswerable by moneyless citizen opposition, to give his corporate welfare hijack legitimacy.
A deception election is not legitimacy. Only when there is public debate and some equivalence of media access does such an election have a validity. Paul Allen does not choose to enter into a public debate — an invitation I nonetheless extend to him and me in Seattle before the June 17th vote. The ten billion dollar man doesn’t have to debate; he can buy his way with your
Referendum 48 is the cutting edge of corporate welfare greed, of siphoning off tax revenues from other more basic community needs, of garnishing luxury boxes and seats with ticket prices only the well-to-do can afford.
Referendum 48 encourages the kind of fan/city blackmail that these sports oligarchs are pushing all over the country. A NO Referendum 48 will say no to auctioning off the ballot box and send a strong message from the Great Northwest: No more corporate extortion to subsidize your immense profits while you overprice your teams, tickets and fineprints.