Paul Allen: Above the law?

Guess you don’t get a $21 billion net worth by voluntarily following the rules. When the Washington state legislature agreed to give Microsoft co-founder $300 million in public money for a new Seattle Seahawks stadium in 1997, it attached a requirement that Allen open the books of his football team to public examination. Now, after a years-long battle, it appears that Allen may be allowed to ignore this provision, as the state attorney general’s office is leaving it up to legislators whether to enforce the clause. As the Tacoma News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan writes: “Legislative leaders now have a choice of doing nothing or taking on a billionaire who has already given more than $100,000 to legislative campaigns. Odds are heavily in favor of them doing nothing.”

The 1997 law seems clear on the face of it, requiring “the team affiliate to publicly disclose, on an annual basis, an audited profit-and-loss financial statement.” While the law defined “team affiliate” as “a professional football team that will use the stadium and exhibition center, and any affiliate of the team designated by the team,” Allen chose only to open the books of First & Goal, the shell corporation he created to manage the stadium, without revealing the finances of the Seahawks themselves. The state Public Stadium Authority backed Allen’s contention, arguing (and I quote, thanks to the Seattle Weekly): “The word and can mean either and or or, depending on the context within which it is used.” Apparently there’s one grammar for the rich and another for the poor, as well.

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