Today’s Washington Post has a story on a now-annual jerk contest over box seats in National’s Stadium. In brief, the city gets tickets to all the games and, according to WaPo, one box goes to the mayor and the other to the council, via the Sports and Entertainment Commission. The Nationals have delivered the tickets to Mayor Fenty directly, however, and he’s handing them out to his liking.
However if you look at the lease agreement as I found it[pdf], however, neither scenario is how it’s supposed to unfold and there’s more going on here.
First of all, unmentioned in the Washington Post article is the fact that there’s apparently a whole other 25 tickets in play here, or should be.
Let’s look at the lease agreement . Parsing it requires looking at two definitions and one applicable clause.
The definitions section identifies the “commission’s suites” as “two 12-seat suites.” The commission is identified as “the District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Commission, and its successors and authorized assigns under this agreement.”
Section 8.4 says that “Subject to Applicable Laws, the Commission shall be provided, at no cost to the Commission … (ii) in the case of Regular Season Baseball Home Games, the related Commission’s Suite Tickets and parking, plus 25 additional box seat Tickets in the Baseball Stadium in mutually agreed locations “on the infield”;”
So, we have several problems here. One, the mayor should not be taking direct receipt of any of these tickets. Legally they’re to be provided to the DCSEC who should handle passing them out. I’d question whether it’s appropriate for them to be handed to any of the elected officials since that certainly stinks of inappropriate gifting, but without question there shouldn’t be a block simply handed to the mayor: he’s not the designated recipient for any of the tickets.
After that, we have the ethical and legal questions. DC Code covering lobbying activities is pretty clear about value. From § 1-1105.06. Prohibited activities.
(a) No registrant or anyone acting on behalf of a registrant shall offer, give, or cause to be given a gift to an official in the legislative or executive branch or a member of his or her staff, that exceeds $100 in value in the aggregate in any calendar year. This section shall not be construed to restrict in any manner contributions authorized in §§ 1-1131.01 through 1-1131.02 and § 1-1104.03.
Personally I think that makes this dicey. However the DC office of legal affairs doesn’t seem to think so, or at least hasn’t in the past. In 2001 they told Abe Pollan that he could hand over some NBA tickets to the the council and it was all okey dokey. Now, that was based on the assertion that the Arena isn’t a registered lobbyist – which seems pretty specious to me – and that may not apply to tickets coming from the team in this context, but I’m tired of doing amature legal beagle work here. They do say, however, that the council members have to disclose within 30 days.
Is Mayor Fenty disclosing these as gifts? Since they’re coming to him, not DCSEC, I don’t see how they qualify as the lease tickets.
What policies does DCSEC have regarding handing out these tickets?
Where’s the additional 25 non-suite tickets the city is entitled to in this lease agreement?