The National Football League fumblesNo sooner had President Obama ruefully acknowledged that his administration hadn’t
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
No sooner had President Obama ruefully acknowledged that his administration hadn’t immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington than the National Football League went out and hired one, perhaps spurred to act by the prospect of Obama eliminating them all.
The AIG flap should have alerted the NFL that this is not the time for a large, potentially overextended — if it goes to an 18-game schedule — organization, with a history of lavish bonuses and many of whose employees are no strangers to the courthouse, to be drawing attention to itself.
See, Obama has a thing about lobbyists. He denounced them during the campaign, refused their contributions, tried his best to keep them out of his administration and imposed rules to try to keep his people from becoming lobbyists once they left his employ.
And the president knows that his plan to cut $40 billion in big-ticket Pentagon projects has defense contractors hiring every lobbyist in Washington with a clean shirt and a working BlackBerry.
And, rather foolishly, the NFL created a political action committee, Gridiron PAC, to raise money and make campaign donations. The Associated Press says the PAC raised $313,000 by year’s end. You poor people. Why not just send your phone number to every telemarketer on the planet and say, “Please call.”
In addition to having the pinstriped arm of Congress put on you for primo seats at games, you will be importuned for campaign donations. Lawmakers’ campaigns describe donors as “Friends of ... “ And we know what the opposite of “friend” is. Nudge, nudge.
Lawmakers are very competitive with each other. So what are you going to do when Sen. Max Baucus suggests that he’d like an NFL team in his state? Baucus is from Montana, whose entire population hasn’t enough viewers to prevent a game from being blacked out in any current NFL city.
But Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, whose jurisdiction is, basically, money, where it comes from, where it goes. So, Butte is starting to look a little more attractive, isn’t it?
Having a lobbyist may encourage Congress to hold hearings because now the lobbyist — and not congressional staffers — has to track down the witnesses. And you recall that last year a bunch of senators wanted to know about this mysterious “NFL Network” that carries games none of the fans are able to see.
Sen. Arlen Specter, then-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, let New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick off easy for cheating and the league off easy for destroying the evidence. He only threatened to end your antitrust exemption. But with a lobbyist you’ve donned the pads, strapped on the helmet and stepped out on the field, so to speak. Helpful hint: “Blindside” is also a term used in politics.
Getting entangled with the federal government might not be all bad for professional sports. Recall that when the U.S. Postal Service was sponsoring professional cycling, its teams won six Tours de France, the Super Bowl of pedaling.
And now Obama is proposing legislation to have the Treasury Department take over sick and ailing enterprises. At 0-16, the Detroit Lions count as both. Or how about the Oakland Raiders, who haven’t finished better than 5-11 the last six seasons. And AP notes that the Raiders under Al Davis were one of two teams not to contribute to Gridiron PAC.
“Mr. Davis, Treasury Secretary Geithner is on the line ...”
— McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.