WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel has taken tough swings at the New York Yankees and New York City government over a new stadium for the Yankees. But neither the team nor the city budged from their positions on the $1.3 billion structure.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich said Thursday he found "waste and abuse of public dollars" in the financing of the new stadium under construction in the South Bronx.
Kucinich is an Ohio Democrat who heads a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. He charged that city officials misrepresented to the IRS the value of the property, helping them to get special tax deals from the federal government and in effect dumping the cost of construction onto taxpayers. No one from the either the city or the Yankees spoke at the hearing.
As Kucinich spoke, New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was in a nearby building testifying before a different House committee on global warming.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg defended the deal, calling it "a great project."
"We want these kinds of facilities here. Having new stadiums is as important as other things in terms of, not just the spirit for the people who live here, but our economy," Bloomberg said.
That's not how several Democrats on the panel saw it.
"In the case of the new Yankee Stadium, not only have we found waste and abuse of public dollars subsidizing a project that is for the exclusive benefit of a private entity, the Yankees, but also we have discovered serious questions about the accuracy of certain representations made by the City of New York to the federal government," Kucinich said.
The panel's investigation found "substantial evidence of improprieties and possible fraud by the financial architects of the new Yankee Stadium," he added.
The criticism highlights tensions felt nationwide as governments increasingly support stadiums for profitable pro sports teams with multimillion dollar payrolls.
Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., said her hometown of Los Angeles has gone without a professional football team for decades because city officials are unwilling to pay for a new stadium.
Given the current financial crisis gripping the U.S. economy, she said it made no sense for taxpayers to pay for construction of buildings for the benefit of sports owner tycoons.
"In this country we have allowed the upper class to destroy the middle class," Watson charged.