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A Citizens’ Organization Opposed to Public Financing of a Baseball Stadium
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (January 22, 2006)
RESIDENTS TO PROTEST MLB-SPONSORED FUNDRAISER FOR COUNCILMEMBER PATTERSON
DC residents are calling on Ward 3 Councilmember Kathleen Patterson to cancel her Monday morning campaign fundraiser that is being sponsored by Mayor Anthony Williams and the top local lobbyist for Major League Baseball, or recuse herself during the upcoming vote on the lease agreement for the new baseball stadium
A Better Deal 4 DC, a grassroots group opposed to the public financing of a new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals, plans to protest outside the offices of MLB lobbyist John Ray, of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, prior to the start of the fundraising breakfast. The group hops to raise public awareness of the appearance of impropriety surrounding this controversial baseball deal.
Patterson fundraiser is scheduled for Monday, January 23, 2006, 8:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m. at the offices of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP, 700 12th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. Contributors are being asked to give $250 to $1,500 to Patterson’s campaign for Council chairman.
A Better Deal 4 DC contends that such an event, which takes place only days after the Mayor made his public offer and days before a critical vote, creates the appearance of vote-buying by the Mayor and MLB at a time when the city’s leadership has suffered many ethical lapses.
Councilmember Patterson was among the six members who voted in December 2004 against the proposed stadium plan at the South Capitol site. Since then, the Mayor, when faced with a majority council opposition, publicly promised to work to re-elect councilmembers who vote in support of the stadium lease.
December 14, 2005: "We want to help [council members] who have been supportive of this in any way we can. . . ," Williams was quoted as saying. Just days after the Mayor issued his offer, Patterson, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Council chairman next September, announced that she now plans to vote for the stadium draft lease.
On January 19, 2006, Mayor Williams, who appears to be tone deaf and blind to most ethical issues, announces that he and John Ray are holding a fundraising breakfast for Patterson on January 23 -- even though the stadium lease vote is still pending.
While Councilmember Patterson is certainly entitled to change her mind on the baseball deal, residents and members of A Better Deal 4 DC believe that an open and honest elected official should not attempt to cash in on her decision by agreeing to a fundraising event given by a lobbyist actively working on the baseball deal.
It is also shocking that -- while other Councilmembers are attempting to get better terms under the lease for the city, such as capping the stadium costs and requiring MLB (or the new team owners) to cover any cost overruns -- Patterson would agree to favors from an MLB lobbyist who represents the very industry that exclusively would benefit financially from her favorable vote on the lease.
A Better Deal 4 DC asks: Can Patterson assure citizens that, after having accepted campaign cash drummed up by the Mayor and MLB’s lobbyist, she could then vote for amendments to the lease that the Mayor and MLB don’t want? Or, even if she felt she voted against such amendments in good conscience, would voters see her vote as a matter of principle -- or a vote paid for by the Mayor and MLB’s John Ray? And are MLB’s Ray and the Mayor sending an unsavory message to councilmembers critical of the lease that they, too, can have cash drummed up for them by MLB’s lobbyist if they fall into line and vote yes on the lease?
Councilmember Patterson has shown herself to be a valuable Councilmember in many areas, including school construction and reform of abusive police practices.
However, the group contends that Patterson has severely compromised herself by agreeing to a fundraiser sponsored by Williams and Ray, and can only spare herself serious problems on the campaign trail by canceling this event or recusing herself from voting on the stadium lease when it comes up for a vote before the Council, tentatively set for February 7.
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