The Washington Nationals are the talk of baseball this year, having returned baseball to the nation’s capital and put aside the losing ways they had as the Montreal Expos prior to this year. They’re such a hot commodity that several groups are bidding to buy the team, including one group that includes billionaire Democratic Party booster George Soros. And as Roll Call magazine reports, some Republican leaders are actually threatening retaliation on Major League Baseball if they allow Soros’ group to buy the team:
“I think Major League Baseball understands the stakes,” said Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R), the Northern Virginia lawmaker who recently convened high-profile steroid hearings. “I don’t think they want to get involved in a political fight.”
Davis, whose panel also oversees District of Columbia issues, said that 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.
Indeed, Hill Republicans could potentially make life difficult for MLB in a variety of ways. In addition to being exempt from anti-trust rules, baseball is still under scrutiny over the steroid issue. The Nats, meanwhile, hope to have a publicly-funded stadium built soon, though money for that venture is expected to come through the sale of bonds rather than a federal outlay.
Still, Rep. John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), vice chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that covers the District of Columbia budget, said 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.”
Breathtaking, isn’t it? I don’t recall Democrats threatening to take away baseball’s antitrust exemption when President Bush was a part owner of the Texas Rangers. For that matter, George Steinbrenner was once convicted of illegal contributions to the Nixon campaign and 13 current or former baseball team owners contributed at least $100,000 to the Bush campaign in the last election. Or how about Rupert Murdoch, billionaire Republican Party booster, who until 2004 owned the LA Dodgers?
Radley Balko is right when he says, “Davis is making a public threat to sanction a private industry for doing business with a political opponent” and he’s right that he should be stripped of his committee chairmanship for it. It’s an outrageous threat of an abuse of power.