Today, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson contacted all 144 Louisiana legislators and offered each of them two tickets to the Super Bowl, which will be played Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome.
This is the toughest sporting ticket to purchase in America. One popular website, SeatCrunch, is offering a limited number of tickets, but reports that prices average $3,647 a piece.
Luckily for Louisiana legislators they will not have to purchase tickets at such outrageous prices. Because of their position, Benson is offering them tickets at the face value of only $850 each.
Therefore, Benson is giving each legislator a discount of approximately $2,800 per ticket or a total gift of $5,600. Some legislators are buying the discounted tickets while others are offering them to constituents. Either way, it is a nice perk that legislators are receiving, that is not available to the general public.
The ticket deal is unseemly for a number of reasons. It is a valuable gift that could be viewed as a quid pro quo. What is Benson expecting from legislators in return?
In the past, Benson has received plenty of state funding for the Saints and their stadium. For example, in the last deal, Benson received a state commitment to upgrade the Superdome and lease space in his office building as part of an overall $85 million package of incentives.
For this reason, Benson certainly knows the value of good political relationships. For many years, he has been cultivating close relations with legislators. In 2002, when New Orleans last hosted the Super Bowl, Benson offered legislators an opportunity to purchase tickets at face value. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.
In Louisiana politics, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Politicians are elected to “serve” the public, not become ruling lords over a public of indentured serfs. It is time to end the perks, gifts, tickets, and other benefits that Louisiana politicians love to enjoy. These fortunate individuals should be in their positions to help others, not to benefit financially or otherwise.
Not all legislators accepted Benson’s “generous” offer. Congrats to those politicians, such as State Representatives Cameron Henry (R-Metairie) and Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge), who refused to participate in this deal. Other legislators decided not to attend the game for whatever reason, but offered the tickets to a friend or family member.
None of this should be happening in a state that supposedly has the “gold standard” for ethics. Legislators make decisions that regularly impact Mr. Benson’s many businesses. Therefore, they should not become beholden to him in any way. It sends to the wrong message to the voters, who are supposedly the ones in charge, calling the shots. Sadly, these 288 tickets were not made available to the average Saints fan.
This latest example of political patronage is both unseemly and improper. A better way to distribute these tickets would have been for Mr. Benson to auction them for charity, benefiting non-profits groups in the New Orleans area. In this way, possibly $800,000 or more could have been raised for a much better cause than typical politics as usual, Louisiana style.
Instead, it was decided to offer another perk for politicians who receive far too many in our state. --