Koch Brothers-funded group decries “corporate welfare” for Rays, keeps straight face whole time

Say “the Koch brothers” and most people just think “rich dudes trying to help other rich dudes get richer,” and there’s a lot of truth to that. But Charles and David Koch are also diehard libertarians (of the “get government off the backs of the owning man” vein), and sometimes that ideology bumps up against the interests of the expensive-thing-owning classes.

That’s been the case around sports stadium subsidies, where the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity have lobbied against Wisconsin funding the Milwaukee Bucks‘ new arena, against tax kickbacks for Utah Jazz arena renovations, and for state bills to ban spending public money on sports facilities. And it’s now the case in Tampa Bay, where Americans for Prosperity is waging a full-scale war against any public money being spent on a new Rays stadium, at least if video ads on your Twitter feed counts as full-scale war:

Starting today, residents of the Tampa Bay area may start to see a new video ad on their social media feeds assailing the idea that public money could be used to build a new baseball stadium — complete with an animated “taxpayer” being bowled over by a player sliding into a base…

“When it comes to the big game of corporate welfare, the taxpayers are always the losers,” the video says…

The group will also include a form letter for residents to sign… “Dear Commissioner: I am contacting you to urge you to oppose taxpayer funding for professional sports facilities,” the letter reads. “Families and hard-working Floridians deserve to either keep their tax money or have it spent on essential services.”

That’s a little hokey, but I guess you’ve got to fight magic basketballs with taxpayers getting Ruben Tejada’d.

And this kind of ad spending does matter — as I’m fond of citing, the best predictor of whether a sports subsidy referendum will pass is to look at the ratio of campaign money spent by supporters to opponents: more than 100:1 and it usually passes, less than that and it’s usually defeated. (Not that the Rays stadium is expected to go before a public vote, but a similar effect can sometimes work on local legislators, too.) And if cheering on Americans for Prosperity in this instance requires overlooking the more than $400 million in corporate welfare that the Kochs themselves have raked in, well, any bedfellow in a storm, I guess.


20 comments on “Koch Brothers-funded group decries “corporate welfare” for Rays, keeps straight face whole time

  1. Indeed, some hypocrisy on the part of the Koch brothers, whose business interests appear to have raked in quite a bit of subsidy $dough. In the right hands, it might have been enough to build (perhaps) half a basketball arena or one-third of a football stadium.

    • >Indeed, some hypocrisy on the part of the Koch brothers, whose business interests appear to have raked in quite a bit of subsidy $dough.

      Not really, they are pretty open about their disdain for such subsidies and that they want them eliminated. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the right’s agenda in the US, but the Koch’s are a lot more principled and reasonable than they are portrayed. Just because people disagree with you doesn’t mean they are evil.

      • In general I agree with you, but it’s hard to accept that the Koch’s are true libertarians who want tax subsidies eliminated yet still take advantage of them.

        It’s true that they would be putting their own business at a disadvantage if they didn’t take up the same subsidies their competitors do… but then, we are talking about principled folk aren’t we?

        I watch what people actually do, not what they say other people should do.

        • It is a pretty rare person from either side of the aisle who doesn’t take advantage of policies they personally disagree with when they work to their benefit. You don’t see almost any of it from the left either.

          I know pro handgun control people with hand guns, and plenty on the left think the government should spend less time subsidizing business or specifically say agribusiness, and still go out and own those companies/buy those products.

          • So, these are principled men who profoundly believe in their Libertarian values, but only so long as doing so doesn’t cost them available taxpayer subsidies?

            As oxymorons go, that’s a pretty big one.

            If they don’t believe in the evils of government intervention in business enough to just not take taxpayer welfare, why do they believe the rest of us should adhere to their principles?

  2. The Rays moving to Vegas is a great fit. No more empty stadiums. Vegas would fill the Rays venue on a steady basis.

    Vegas is booming.

    • Las Vegas 51s average attendance in 2017: 4,834
      Cashman Field capacity: 9,334

      Tampa-St. Pete TV homes: 1,879,760
      Las Vegas TV homes: 757,400

      • Great points Neil. St. Petersburg/Tampa/Clearwater/Sarasota/Lakeland/Orlando area will continue to grow at an exponential rate in comparison with Vegas. Let’s be honest, Las Vegas is not even in the ballpark……groan.

        • Lets be honest,having lived in both areas and been to Rays game, you can’t even compare the two areas.

          Vegas attracts millions of persons of all ages. Vegas is booming, if your going to add Orlando, then I will add Los Angeles.

        • Las Vegas pro sports market would get pretty crowded pretty fast, with NFL, NHL and MLB. Ideally a baseball team would sell 2 to 3 million seats. You’re asking tourist and service industry people to carry a lot of freight there. I can see football fans making a trip there every year or so, especial for the California teams, but then doing it again and again for baseball?

          • Yeah, it would end up being the sort of thing that people who were already in town did on evenings when there’s nothing to do at the casino. Wait, there’s always something to do at the casino!

      • Las Vegas 51s average attendance in 2017: 4,834
        Cashman Field capacity: 9,334

        Unreal. You compare attendance of a minor league teams to a Major league.

        Not fair.

        Its funny, the Rays draw about 9k a game as a MLB team in St Pete.

        I suspect the owner of this site is a flower specialist.

        He knows nothing about sports or baseball.

        FTD is hiring.

        • I assume “flower specialist” is supposed to be a homophobic taunt, but I’m laughing too hard about “knows nothing about baseball” to mind.

          Q: Who was the last switch-hitter to win the AL MVP? No googling!

  3. Vegas 2.8 million. Tampa 3.3.

    Vegas attracts persons globally.

    Tampa attracts 150 year old men named NED.

    • “Tampa attracts 150 year old men named NED.”

      Isn’t that the target market for Buick automobiles?

    • If they moved to Vegas, they’d be trading one domed stadium for another. no sense building a retractable roof that could be open 20 out of 81 games max.

    • If we’re gonna throw pipe dreams out there can I suggest moving the Rays to a renovated for modern MLB Olympic Stadium (Montreal)?

      Seriously be happy Vegas has Triple A baseball and for the moment water.

  4. A key difference between Orlando and Vegas is that while Vegas has, at any given time, millions of people looking for a way to have fun and be entertained, Orlando has the same number of people making sure others are staying off the front lawn.

    It takes more than the total number of people; what those people are doing is a big deal. Heck, it might be cheaper and easier for me to get to an SF Giants game in Vegas than it is to get to SF — and I only live 90 miles from SF.