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December 21, 2005

All Ball

Dear Batters:

Is there really anything more to say about the baseball deal? Of course there is. Keep reading.

Gary Imhoff


Do Three City Negotiators with MLB Have Conflicts of Interest?
John Hanrahan,

The law firm of one of the city’s top negotiators in the deal to bring Major League Baseball (MLB) to the District of Columbia has MLB itself as one of its clients. Additionally, the law firms of two other top city negotiators have Major League teams as clients, according to the law firms’ web sites. The city’s top negotiators in the baseball deal (according to, December 19, were Mark Tuohey, chairman of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission and partner in Vinson & Elkins; William Hall, a Sports Commission board member and partner in Winston & Strawn; and W. Andrew Jack, of Covington & Burling. It should be emphasized that their law firms’ web sites do not show Tuohey, Hall, or Jack personally representing MLB or any MLB team. But all three of their firms — particularly Andrew Jack’s Covington & Burling — do have well-established ties to MLB.

These ties raise questions of appearances of conflicts of interest that need to be pursued by the press. Such scrutiny is especially needed given the yearlong concern of many city councilmembers and citizens that the city’s negotiators obtained a terrible deal with Major League Baseball — and given that some new level of negotiation is reportedly being conducted now with MLB over the stadium draft lease. It would appear that these three attorneys were negotiating on behalf of the city with their law firms’ own clients -- Major League Baseball and baseball teams that are among the thirty teams that jointly own the Washington Nationals’ franchise and that stand to profit by $330 million from the sale of the team to a new owner. Under the circumstances, just how hard a bargain did our negotiators drive? (Material in quote marks comes from the various law firms’ web sites):

Covington and Burling’s Jeremy D. Spector’s “[r]epresentative clients in the sports world include the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, and the Arena Football League.” Spector’s “practice involves tax planning, IRS controversy work, and the structuring of corporate transactions, with particular emphasis in advising sports leagues and teams. . . .” Additionally, his “sports-related work encompasses such matters as the purchase and sale of sports franchises, public and private stadium financing, player compensation, and the treatment of sponsorship, licensing and broadcast agreements.” Covington & Burling’s senior tax partner Andrew H. Friedman’s “[r]epresentative clients in professional sports include all four major leagues — Major League Baseball . . . and professional sports clubs including the Boston Red Sox.” Vinson & Elkins’s Christopher A. Knepp, based in Austin, Texas, “represents management’s interests in numerous major league baseball salary arbitration cases.” I called Knepp and left a message asking which MLB organizations he represents, but as of this writing he has not called me back. Winston & Strawn’s M. Carter DeLorme, whose specialties include “union avoidance,” has “represented Major League Baseball franchises in both a consulting and lead trial counsel role with respect to their player salary arbitration concerns.” Also, Winston & Strawn’s M. Finley Maxson’s experience “has included transactions involving a major league baseball club. . . .” (It is unclear whether Maxson’s client was a baseball club or a party in a dispute with the club.) And an American Bar Association on-line magazine (October/November 2005) reported, in an article on legal marketing, that Winston & Strawn some years ago made a “pitch [for] the business for Major League Baseball,” but it is not stated whether that effort was successful.

I would hope that reporters from The Washington Post, Washington Times, and The Examiner, as well as television and radio news reporters, would probe more deeply into these and other possible conflicts of interest over the $667 million (and rising) stadium deal.


The Deal to Be Done
Ed Delaney,

Didn’t the mayor and the rest of the Brigade keep telling us that the lease was a done deal and that the city needed to stick with its original commitments and not change the deal in any way? What a shock — it wasn’t true! And if changes really can be made, Mayor Sweetheart has proven that he and the rest of the Baseball Brigade should not be the ones changing it, considering how badly they were willingly out-negotiated by Major League Baseball! Why don’t you take a trip somewhere and leave the heavy lifting to the council at this point, mayor?

It’s about time that commonsense actions prevail over politics, like shifting the ballpark from a site where cost concerns and uncertainties won’t allow the adequate funding that is needed and where residences and businesses would be destroyed or displaced, to the one site in the city which would be the best fit for a ballpark and where costs are much lower and more certain than anywhere else. It just might be if the council holds firm that MLB will be the ones with hats in hands, pressing the city to sit down at the bargaining table and not worrying about deadlines as long as a deal get approved. MLB need DC more than DC needs MLB. This attitude from the Brigade that we have to play by MLB’s rules or else needs to go the way of the dodo — as does the Brigade’s involvement in the city’s dealings with MLB. Here members of the DC Council are trying to come up with creative solutions to save the baseball stadium deal, and you’ve got Brigade members like Steve Green snitching to Daddy Baseball, who then acts to crush the efforts from council members before they’ve been finalized to pass stadium overrun costs onto the team owners, since they’re still after the sweetheart deal as it currently exists. If the MLB and the Brigade are going to act in unison like this, than the DC council has no choice but to lay down the law, cut the Brigade out of the process, and start naming terms that MLB can take or leave.

As MLB isn’t naming an owner, it’s entirely reasonable in the interests of salvaging baseball in this city for councilmembers to work with potential owners that are willing to make a deal that’s in the best interest of the city. And as far as who’s going to be dictating to whom, MLB’s dictation days, which they’ve been exploiting for far too long in the ever-worsening deal with the city, are numbered if the council exercises its power as part of its obligation to the city to curtail this boondoggle and make it work for the city, leaving it to MLB to choose if they want to play ball under terms acceptable to the council.

MLB has no option but to negotiate with the council, since no other locale is going to match the deal that the council is willing to offer MLB even with the changes the council would demand. The council has indicated that it would must certainly approve the deal it thought it passed last year, in which the city offers MLB the unprecedented generosity of 100 percent public financing costing no more than the princely sum of $535 million including infrastructure, parking, and improvements to related road and Metro stations (which can only occur at the RFK Stadium site given the cost issues at the current site) with additional cost overruns coming exclusively from the team, MLB, and private developers who will be partnering with the city on cooperative development projects at the site and stand to benefit from the project’s presence (including coverage for any costs that result from MLB’s luxury add-ons made outside of the original agreement from an entire concourse level of club seats and luxury suites to a 7500 SF conference center). MLB can either take that deal and run like a thief in the night, or they can play games like this “we’re not going to be dictated to” nonsense. The city doesn’t have to give MLB forever to accept the improved deal, either, and the council should put a short deadline on the offer and warn MLB just like Dupuy did, that any delay in passing the package would result in the city’s removing all concessions from the deal. Put this deal in front of MLB, and let the other factors — from the population and top ten media share of this market to the eager anticipation from the twenty-nine owners of $450 million in franchise sale proceeds to divide amongst themselves — do the rest. The councilmembers who have refused to rubber-stamp this boondoggle have done the city a tremendous service. They now need to take the next step and offer MLB the deal and demand a quick answer so this matter can be resolved quickly and properly.


Where Is the Folly? Really Now!
Harold Goldstein,

There seems to be a “baseball folly” bandwagon that has mindlessly developed here. I read that “It is clear that financial disaster is certain.” Give me a break. We pontificate repetitively and continuously about cost overruns and other needs of the city, but the two sides are yelling at each other and not listening to each other. For me, and my position is that I like baseball being here but I don’t really care, neither side presents a really compelling argument; but it is clear that this is not a financial disaster and that the city will probable not be affected that much in either direction. Talk of cost overruns — tell me about municipal projects (or state or federal) on this scale anywhere without cost overruns?

What about our Metro system? Everyone involved with it knew that the originally stated two billion was ridiculous and that cost overruns were 100 percent certain; and we know it cost a cool ten billion. It was a financial boondoggle of the first sort, making many real estate developers very wealthy without reducing traffic in the slightest. But should it have been built?

Thirty years from now you can ask the same question about this stadium and those of us still around will still debate it because there will be no clear answer. So get off your high horses or else provide clear evidence of serious ills to befall this city because of it. Comparing to a painting? Please.


Rally Signs
John Capozzi,

Here is a list of some of the signs we had on Monday at the rally: Don’t Raid Our Emergency Fund!; US Military: We Need Money for a Stadium; RFK Is OK; Baseball — Yes, DC Pays All — No; Baseball at RFK — Yes; Fix Schools Only after Stadiums; Mayor “Blank Check” Williams!; Stadium 1st, Schools 2nd; Stadium 1st, People Last; MLB Wins, DC Loses; No Rubber Stamp Council.


Mayor Williams Requests Delay in Tuesday’s Stadium Lease Vote
Andy Litsky, ANC-6D,

In a victory for citizens across the District, members of the DC council today told the mayor that they would require significant concessions from MLB and that they could not approve a stadium lease that gave a blank check for stadium construction. To those of you who called, wrote and visited members of the council in person — thank you so much for your help in this effort!

We greatly acknowledge the leadership of Councilmembers David Catania, Jim Graham, Adrian Fenty and Marion Barry, each of whom has argued forcefully against blanket approval of this plan. But the fight is not over. At some point in the near future there will be a vote on a lease. Mayor Williams has said that he needs to tweak portions of the lease. But the lease doesn’t just require a few technical amendments, it needs an overhaul to ensure that the thirty year agreement we sign with baseball is honest, fair and equitable.

Please contact the following swing vote councilmembers who stood up today in their support of fiscal sanity: Kwame Brown,; Vincent Gray,; Carol Schwartz,; and Phil Mendelson,, to thank them for their difficult and courageous decision on this matter. Ask them to continue to exercise strong council oversight and require that Major League Ball come back to the District with a deal that caps our indemnity at the levels to which the Council had previously agreed. We also must insist that if others — such as local developers or the federal government — suggest that they will assume any portion of the infrastructure and other attendant costs, that these agreements must be put in writing prior to adopting any lease agreement for the stadium site. We can bring baseball to Washington, but it must — at long last — be done properly. All the best for a very happy holiday season!


Sent Over the Transom
P. Walters,

Ward 3 councilwoman Patterson is frequently missing from public events, apparently preferring privacy over constituent contact. This week she continued the avoidance and had a clerk in her office send E-mails to constituents confused by her stance on the stadium lease, announcing in effect that she had sold out her vote on the stadium to MLB interests [].

Among the many risible arguments in her “baseball statement” is the gushing over the so-called “community benefit” fund that the chief-certifying-officer, Natwar Gandhi, claims is "real" and will provide $400 million for unspecified programs. Such a deal, spend $600 million, $700 million, perhaps $1 billion or more, on the stadium and gain an opportunity to spend another $400 million on politico giveaways. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just spend the $400 million? Or, maybe just bury it in front of the Wilson building.

Patterson concludes her statement with tough talk and a stern warning for future administrators: “If the stadium project moves forward, the Council must provide the kind of tough oversight that large public projects demand. I am committed to that oversight, along with working to see that professional baseball benefits everyone in this city, starting with our young people.” Awesome. Tough oversight after the fact. This person could go far in DC politics.


Not for Sale
Kathy Patterson,

With regard to Dorothy Brizill’s posting [themail, December 18] about my having "sold" my vote on the stadium lease: I do not sell votes. I do not trade votes. I never have. I never will.

Late last week, two other reporters asked me about this particular rumor at the Wilson Building, part of which was that I conspired all day Thursday with Councilmember Evans. I explained that this was not possible given that I was on camera chairing a hearing from 9:30 til 2, then attending another hearing from 2 til 6. And I explained my view on vote sales. Neither reporter went with this rumor. Dorothy got played by a rumormonger with an agenda. The reporters who did me the courtesy of calling did not.


Dorothy Brizill,

This week, the mayor told several news outlets that he had three firm new commitments on the ballpark. He said that the developers who had been selected by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation to develop the ballpark area had agreed to kick in $12 million for infrastructure improvements; that the Bush White House had assured him the federal government would underwrite upgrading the Navy Yard Metro station; and that WMATA had agreed to close and relocate their bus garage in the footprint of the stadium. I asked the mayor’s press office for copies of anything that they had in writing to confirm any of these commitments. Finally, this afternoon, the press office admitted that there were no written commitments from anyone on any of these subjects.

I must admit my error; in my posting in themail last Sunday, December 18, I wrote that Councilmembers Kathy Patterson and Jack Evans had met last week to discuss Evans’ withdrawal from the council chairman’s race, Patterson’s candidacy, and her vote on the baseball lease. As Councilmember Patterson writes above, they did not meet in person on Thursday, December 15. Instead, as both council offices confirm, they spoke on the telephone.

Councilmember Patterson denies that she sold or traded her vote on the ballpark lease. However, last Friday, members of Mayor Williams’s baseball lobbying team, both Executive Office of the Mayor staffers and representatives of the DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, described the situation differently. While they were trying to round up votes from councilmembers, in the course trying to create the impression that support for the lease was building, they let it be known widely in the Wilson Building that Kathy Patterson now supported the stadium lease, and they said it was because she had made a deal with Jack Evans. On Monday, just before the mayor withdrew the lease agreement, Patterson confirmed in an E-mail to her constituents ( that she would vote for the ballpark deal.



Health, Housing, and Human Services: Exploring Strategies for the National Capital Region, January 3
Thomas Mentzer,

The Urban Institute’s monthly First Tuesday event series will focus on the national capital region during its first panel discussion of 2006. Panelists will address issues facing the capital region and strategies created to deal with them. Presentations will focus on the complex relationship of the problems, their conflicting dynamics, and regional solutions that could help address them. Panelists include David Robertson, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; and Urban Institute researchers Carol De Vita, Barbara Ormond, and Peter Tatian. The event will be held on Tuesday, January 3 at the Urban Institute, 2100 M St. NW, 5th Floor. A light lunch is available at 11:45 a.m., with the event beginning at noon and ending at 1:30. Presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session. Seating is limited, so please RSVP. For more information or to register, call 261-5709 or E-mail


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