Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Etticks

Shenanigans! Tomfoolery! Monkeyshines! Or, as they call it in Pittsfield, Monday:
Former Sox general manager Daniel Duquette was raked over the coals by Red Sox fans for failing to get the team to the World Series. Now he is embroiled in a state ethics controversy for allegedly selling Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto two face-value tickets to the 2004 World Series at a time when seats were fetching as much as $2,000 apiece . . .

. . . The mayor’s attorney, Leonard H. Cohen, said in a statement that the purchase of the World Series tickets did not influence the mayor's dealings with the minor league team. Cohen said he drove a hard bargain to allow the Dukes to play at Wahconah Park because it resulted in substantial economic benefits to the city.

“He purchased two tickets at face value ($190/ea) to the second game of the 2004 Red Sox World Series for one reason and one reason only,” Cohen said. “He, like countless other Red Sox fans in New England and elsewhere, at last had hopes that his beloved team would win the World Series in his lifetime.”

Cohen added: “Jimmy Ruberto, dedicated public servant and long suffering Red Sox fan, purchased two tickets to see his team and there is simply no impropriety in that.”
Well, of course there is. This public ethics stuff has formed a large part of my business in recent years, and this fact pattern is pretty damn par for the course in my experience. No one simply hands public officials wads of cash anymore. They give them access to things to which they otherwise wouldn't have access. Beachfront condos. Tee times at exclusive golf courses. Here in Ohio, Buckeyes tickets are a particularly common topic of conversation over at the Ethics Commission, and in Massachusetts I'm sure Sox tickets are too.

The "I paid face value" defense never works because every state's ethics law talks about the inherent value of the item being provided. OSU-Michigan tickets have a face value of about fifty bucks. Good luck finding them at that price. Give them to a politician at that price and you've done him a gigantic favor.

And guess what? He doesn't have to do something for you in return in order for there to be trouble. Every state has two laws: one for bribes, and one for "improper gifts." Bribes require a showing of a quid pro quo. Improper gifts do not -- the whole point of the gifts law is to punish the appearance of impropriety, not an actual rigged deal -- so this mayor's defense that he drove a hard bargain with Duquette over the Wahconah Park deal is irrelevant. The law would have been broken even if the deal wasn't ultimately done.

It's probably worth noting as well that just about every state has a law that penalizes both the recipient of the gift as well as the giver. In my experience, however, the giver usually isn't charged, so I suppose Dan Duquette's Hall of Fame candidacy is still viable. Which is nice.

8 comments:

kehrsam said...

How cool is it to have Leonard Cohen as your lawyer? Think the Duke and Hizzoner met at the Chelsea Hotel?

Craig Calcaterra said...

Leonard Cohen as my lawyer would actually be kind of depressing.

It's four in the morning,
The end of December,
I'm writing this motion just to make your case better.
Pittsfield is cold,
But I like where I'm living,
The music on Housatonic Street plays all through the evening.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't selling them tickets for a higher price than the face value be considered scalping?

bigcatasroma said...

Dan Duquette and Hall of Fame. Even more classic.

And anonymous, it's the very idea that the public person is getting something for less than what you would pay for *because* he is the public person (at least this is the appearance) is what makes this a no-no, I think. Life becomes a slippery slope when you choose to enter into the public's eye . . .

Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

The "I paid face value" defense never works because every state's ethics law talks about the inherent value of the item being provided. OSU-Michigan tickets have a face value of about fifty bucks. Good luck finding them at that price. Give them to a politician at that price and you've done him a gigantic favor.

Unless, of course, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has an anti-scalping law that makes it illegal for an unlicensed broker to sell above face value.

Anonymous said...

"Yez fancy-pants! All o' yez!"

JDS said...

Just weighing in to say that any post that includes a photo of Jon Polito is the awesomest post of the week.

And you did it wid'out givin' us da high-hat!

Craig Calcaterra said...

Yous can take your flunky and dangle.