New York Governor David Paterson could be
fined as much as $96,375 for pushing for
"free" tickets to Game 1 of last year's
World Series at Yankee Stadium
The Yankees are known for having the highest priced tickets in Major League Baseball, some as high as $1,600 a seat for those premium behind-the-plate seats. But if the New York Public Integrity Commission (PIC) gets its way, that record is about to be shattered.
The Commission threw a high hard one at Governor David Paterson last week, recommending that he pay a $96,375 fine for a shakedown of the Yankees that would make the Mafia blush. Aides to the governor demanded five tickets to Game 1 of last year’s World Series for the governor, two of his aides, his son, and one of his son’s friends. While the face value of each ticket was $425 - and they were being offered on StubHub for $5,000 or more – the governor insisted that the tickets be provided free because he was going to attend the game in his “official capacity.” Never mind that he wasn’t scheduled to participate in any ceremony or other activity while in attendance.
After a writer from the New York Post started asking questions, Paterson’s aides paid for their tickets and the governor paid for the two youth tickets, but steadfastly refused to pay for his own. The PIC conducted an investigation in March and interviewed a number of witnesses, including Paterson. The truth-challenged governor told investigators that he “always intended to pay” for the tickets, a statement contradicted by his own aides and by Yankees’ officials who testified that they asked the governor to pay for his tickets but were told payment was not required. Paterson also claimed he was invited to attend the game by Yankees’ president Randy Levine. But after Levine categorically denied the assertion, Paterson recanted.
Paterson even told investigators he attended the game with a check for $850 he had written the morning of the game (October 28) to pay for the tickets for his son and his son’s friend. But because “no opportunity” arose to deliver the check, the governor said he gave it to an aide to mail. Under questioning by the Commission, the governor couldn’t explain why the check which was ultimately sent to the team was dated on October 27 – the day before the game - and wasn’t signed by him. One of the governor’s aides later admitted to writing a backdated check at the governor’s insistence.
As a result of those false statements, the commission referred the matter to the state’s attorney general, who appointed an independent counsel to investigate whether the state should bring criminal charges against the governor for perjury, ala Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. That investigation is still pending. After the commission’s findings were released, Paterson decided to withdraw from his re-election race.
Paterson told the commission the first game of the World Series is “always a national event, like the Academy Awards or, you know, governor’s state address or something like that.” He said if he hadn’t attended the Series opener he would have been hounded by reporters. But Paterson could have attended the game as a paying fan instead of strong-arming the Yankees for free tickets. The governor admitted to being a “serial freeloader” when he told the Commission he and his son had also attended opening day at both Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field. He didn’t pay for tickets on either occasion despite not participating in any “official business,” which is required under state law in order to scoff free tickets.
The PIC’s Special Counsel alleged that the governor “intentionally misled” the commission - an understatement if there ever was one - and that his ethical standards “sadly and widely missed the mark.” To which I would respond: What ethical standards?
It’s difficult enough for politicians to refrain from the temptations of office, but with the visibility and attraction of sports, ethics can vanish with the speed of a Nolan Ryan fastball. Sports are fully capable of creating their own scandals without being dragged into the sewer by the likes of Paterson.
According to the Post, Paterson has already spent $866,000 from his campaign account on legal and public relations fees to defend himself in the “Ticketgate” scandal. He still has $616,000 in the account to pay for what is certain to be future fees, not to mention the potential fine of almost $20,000 per ticket. Expensive tickets indeed.
Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming. He looks forward to your comments and can be contracted, here.
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