Will The Tea Party Strike Out Crony Capitalism in Atlanta Braves “Grand Scam?”
Cronyism between big business and big government Republicans has reared its ugly head once again. Atlanta-area Tea Party grassroots are taking a stand against what some are calling “The Grand Scam” – a deceptive deal to give $300 million in public funds to benefit a private business. The fight pits tea party activists against Republican county politicians in the staunchly Republican Cobb County Georgia.
Atlanta Tea Party members are outraged over a pricey secret deal that members of the Cobb County Commission made with the Atlanta Braves to use taxpayer funds to build their new stadium in the suburbs. The problem? There was no attempt to gain public referendum for the proposal.
This “deal,” which reportedly promises to fork over $300 million of Cobb County tax money to the proposed $672 million stadium plan, seems awfully one-sided.
Michael Patrick Leahy of Breitbart reported that the public didn’t even know that the deal existed until the Braves and Cobb County announced it on November 11, just fifteen days before the Commission passed it.
The strong public opposition expressed in four rushed town hall meetings didn’t deter Commission members from jamming the vote through, 4 to 1. Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee said that two weeks was plenty of time for the public to weigh in.
Who stands to benefit from the stadium deal the most? Take a look at Tim Lee. Atlanta Magazine brought up an interesting point: “When Tim Lee isn’t running Cobb County government, he’s promoting an artificial turf manufacturer. But the Cobb County commission chair doesn’t see that job conflicting with his newfound role as cheerleader-in-chief for a $672 million Atlanta Braves stadium.”
The Cobb County Commission’s website states that its mission is “to make Cobb County the best place to live and work through efficient, effective and responsive government that delivers quality services.” (Emphasis added by CHQ.)
Pardon me, but “responsive government” does not entail blindsiding your constituency with a massive tax burden without a public referendum. Secret meetings on the utilization of public funds for an already-lucrative private business are certainly not an example of “responsive government.” And since when is it the responsibility of government, local or otherwise, to provide a sports entertainment as a “quality service” on the backs of taxpayers? It’s not.
Why are the grassroots opposed, besides the dubious secretive meetings and tax increases? Concerns over “building an entertainment complex on the backs of poor minority students, traffic congestion, and government partnering with a private organization” were voiced. Rushing such a massive undertaking with so many unanswered questions raises many red flags.
Debbie Dooley, a leader of the Atlanta Tea Party, has been at the forefront of the fight. In a recent interview withCNBC, Dooley laid out exactly why this “deal” is wrong for several reasons:
“The deal … smacked of cronyism. It was … cut behind closed doors in secret.”
“The Braves have a right to move wherever they wish to move, as long as it’s paid for with private funds. They have $400 million that they have pledged to develop the area around the stadium. Why are they not using that $400 million to build the stadium and give the taxpayers a break? It is the government picking winners and losers. They’re using public funds. The taxpayer will get the shaft in this, and the political cronies who are well-connected stand to make millions of dollars off of this deal. They deliberately arranged … creative financing. There are groups that will be challenging this, and will be filing a lawsuit to challenge the legality of this.”
“We don’t care where the braves stay. Again, it was the process and the public money that’s being used. They have not been forthcoming. They did not hold public hearings. They rushed the vote. Everything that Republicans accused Democrats for, they’re doing the same thing. They’re hypocritical for doing this. The whole process was wrong. They need to put it to a public referendum and let the taxpayers decide if they want to use tax dollars for the stadium.”
Even with few resources, the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots successfully shut down Cobb County commission phones on November 19. The group executed a call-to-action robo-call campaign in which a minute-long message was delivered to the phones of 150,000 Cobb households. Debbie Dooley’s recorded voice told citizens of the Commission’s plan to use tax money without their consent, then gave them the option to voice their outrage by connecting them directly to the Commission’s office.
Dooley continues to hammer what she sees as the “unconstitutional use” of public funds. She warned that the earmarking of nearly $9 million per year would be siphoned from the general fund, which is needed to aid in repaying the $300 million in bonds. That’s where the “creative financing” happens.
The Associated Press reported that the Tea Party coalition has even crafted a surprising “alliance” with “activists like Cobb resident Rich Pellegrino, who frequently leads liberal and progressive causes in the GOP-leaning county.”
“The labels here don’t really matter,” Pellegrino said. “Whether it’s Republicans, Democrats, whatever, what’s going on here is that the chamber of commerce types run the county, and the politicians are doing their bidding.”
What’s next in the Tea Party coalition’s arsenal? According to a December 11 report by Max Blau of clatl.com, “Atlanta Tea Party Patriots are expected to file a lawsuit against the Cobb County Commission sometime during the next 10 days in hopes of stopping officials from spending public funds on the new stadium.”
We urge you to support the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots coalition efforts to stand up for the taxpayer. It could become an important test case in how to break the axis of evil between big business and big government at the local level.