For Sale – Washington Nationals. Democrats need not apply
The city of Washington has quickly fallen in love with the Nats. The relocated Washington baseball franchise, formerly the Montreal Expos, are in first place in their division. More than 34,000 fans saw yesterday afternoon’s game, a majority wearing red Nats’ merchandise. So far this season, more than 1 million people have come out to see the Nats play at RFK Stadium.
The franchise has just begun to see its value climb. With revenues rising this season, Major League Baseball, the franchise’s current owner, has pledged to allow the team add to its payroll this summer in hopes of securing a division championship. The city has pledged to build the team a new riverfront stadium, scheduled to open in 2008 (though no one really expects them to meet that deadline), which will further add to the franchise’s stream of revenues. Major League Baseball expects to sell the team for a tidy profit sometime this summer and there are currently no less than 6 groups interested in spending millions to buy the franchise.
At least one of the potential owners for the Nats has basically been told not to apply by Congressional Republicans. That group includes billionaire financier George Soros. Earlier this month, Soros joined an ownership bid being led by entrepreneur Jonathan Ledecky.
Why do Congressional Republicans care about who owns the Nats? Soros pumped more than $20 million in the last cycle into groups seeking to unseat President Bush and elect Democrats. The Soros-Ledecky group is not seen as the frontrunner to win the bidding for the Nationals
Here’s what House Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA), whose panel also oversees District of Columbia issues, had to say about MLB’s potential sale of the franchise to a Soros –financed group:
“I think Major League Baseball understands the stakes. I don’t think they want to get involved in a political fight.” If a Soros sale went through, “I don’t think it’s the Nats that get hurt. I think it’s Major League Baseball that gets hurt. They enjoy all sorts of exemptions” from anti-trust laws.”
Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), vice chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that covers the District of Columbia budget also had something to say about Soros’ potential involvement with the DC franchise.
If Soros buys the team and seeks public funding for the new stadium or anything else, the GOP attitude would be, “Let him pay for it. We’re not going to interfere with [the sale], but from a fan’s perspective, who needs the politics?”
It’s the Congressional Republicans that are making this a political issue, not George Soros or his ownership group. If Congress wants to be fair, perhaps the ownership groups that include ex-Senator Peter Fitzgerald and ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell should also be barred from owning the team. In fact, maybe President Bush should be asked to return the millions he made from the sale of the franchise formerly known as the Washington Senators (Texas Rangers).
If Congress wants to get involved with Major League Baseball, perhaps they should start by examining the sweetheart deal MLB gave to Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos to encourage him to allow the Nationals to move to Washington, D.C. Or perhaps they should pass meaningful laws that would regulate the use of steroids in all professional sports. Congress should keep politics out of baseball and the sale of the Nats.