Cobb commissioners got free Braves gear after stadium vote, say “Don’t worry, this happens all the time”

If you’ve been following the Cobb County Atlanta Braves stadium saga, this should not surprise you at all, but feel free to shake your head sadly anyway:

Following the first of a series of controversial votes to approve public funding of a new Atlanta Braves stadium, Cobb County commissioners got goody bags from the Braves. The bags contained Braves apparel, according to disclosure forms filed with the state ethics commission– valued by Commissioner Lisa Cupid at $300. Commissioner Bob Ott valued his at $245.

“It had like a baseball cap, a shirt, a jacket and then like a Braves jersey with my name on the back,” said Ott. “It’s not uncommon. We receive a lot of things and in general, what I do is, I give ’em away.”

The best part of the article, on the WXIA-TV website, is how Ott says he gave away everything except the personalized jersey, because “I don’t want anyone to have the perception that I’m taking gifts.”

This may well be common practice — in fact we know it is, as witness the free Oakland A’s hats the Oakland Coliseum Authority got yesterday for approving that team’s lease extension — but if so that’s only all the more disturbing: Needless to say, critics of the Braves stadium didn’t have personalized Governmental Transparency jerseys to hand out if the commissioners had voted their way. And while elected officials almost certainly don’t tailor their votes just in order to get swag, the swag has a corrupting effect nonetheless: Teams that can offer personalized jerseys, or luxury boxes for governmental use, or selfies with famous people are more likely to be taken seriously as important people who matter, which is exactly why there are disclosure rules about such things. Though when the recipients don’t even have the decency to be embarrassed about it, you have to wonder if disclosure is penalty enough.

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8 comments on “Cobb commissioners got free Braves gear after stadium vote, say “Don’t worry, this happens all the time”

  1. Call me a skeptic but i’m guessing that the freebies that the Cobb County commissioners get aren’t only relegated to free swag.

  2. FYI there is an interesting article in the Star Tribune about the Minneapolis Parks Board voting to not be involved with this giant park the new stadium and its developers are “offering” the Board.

    By “offering” I of course mean not paying for and then asking to have reserved all the best weekends for their own events.

  3. Also, WTF is with this story? I mean I know this happens all the time, but they don’t seem ashamed?

    I am friends with a few politicians, none of whom are not particularly righteous (they will vote for things they thing are a terrible idea if they think it is politically expedient). None of them would let a developer/constituent give them a coffee cup, much less a $300 goody bag. They insist on always paying for everything on separate bills and paying their share of movie tickets, and these are friends.

  4. Of the gifts they get, it’s the free-use of luxury boxes that burns me up most. That’s a personal gift that only elected officials can get, potentially worth thousands of dollars, or tens of thousands of dollars, every year, for as long as they keep getting elected.

    It’s shameful. There should be laws that specifically outlaw that particular practice.

  5. Sometimes the bribes are small because that’s all it takes. The sports overlords aren’t dumb, and they’re not going to pay more than they have to for players, stadiums, or elected officials.

  6. “Sometimes the bribes are small because that’s all it takes.”

    True. For instance, if Georgia wasn’t concerned with the potential corrupting influence of even *small* gifts, the state wouldn’t set the limits for lobbyist spending as low as they have. And they wouldn’t have outlawed lobbyists giving free tickets to officials.

  7. The fact that the franchise had the nerve to make the swag bags shows their contempt for the customers.
    Want the “experience” of actually being allowed to set foot in our palace? PAY UP PAL…
    Want to wear our copyrighted exclusive stuff that we change every few years ‘cuz we KNOW that you gotta have it? PAY UP PAL…
    Of course they won’t bring up the fact you and many more who have absolutely no interest in big-time pro sports will be paying and paying.
    It’s the sheepeople fans that keep on payin’ that embolden franchises like this to have a “let ’em eat cake” mentality, bestowing on the “representatives” for free what the common folk have to pay for.
    Those on the commission should have bullseye’s on them next election, anyone passing this off as biz-as-usual is part of the problem,
    Bahhh, Bahaa, Bahhh, we want more, more, more…

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