12 February 2011

More Whispers From Kendrick

Of all the famous gaffes and baffling missteps perpetrated by Managing Partner Earl "Ken" Kendrick, perhaps none backfired like the time he curiously volunteered to The Arizona Republic that previously unimplicated Gonzo was the subject of vague and unspecified steroid "whispers". 

Four years later, Kendrick appears to have this 'whispers' strategy down pat.

His wife, Randy, sits on the board of the Goldwater Institute, which is threatening to sue Glendale, claiming that city's proposed Coyotes handout violates the gift clause of the Arizona Constitution. The conservative Institute

"opposes government subsidies and special incentives for specific businesses."

But wait. Werent the Diamondbacks specific beneficiaries of massive gov't subsidies? Wasnt more than $100M in extra sales tax generated via a dedicated rate increase, amid great controversy, to enable construction of Bank One Ballpark? Wasnt their recently discarded Tucson practice facility also built with taxpayer funds?


Where was the Goldwater Institute, founded in 1988, then? In fairness, they didnt start litigating until well after that, and Randy Kendrick's husband wasnt the Dbacks' primary decider when those stadiums were built. But he was one of the club's largest investors, benefitting from those lofty and hardly transparent handouts.  If Mr Kendrick was opposed to those subsidies in principle, he certainly didnt divest himself of club shares in practice.

More recently, he convinced a tribe to build his Dbacks a third stadium. Approximately one quater of the original $100M debt was bankrolled by loans guaranteed with federal stimulus. In other words, if the tribe defaults, Mr Kendrick is secure in the knowledge that taxpayers will bail out his project. How might the tribe's or Mr Kendrick's liabilities increase in the absence of such government charity?  Would the project be as robust, or get funded at all?


Judging from the complete absence of Goldwater suits challenging these baseball handouts, we're confident these government subsidies and special incentives to a specific business dont rise to the level of "government subsidies and special incentives for specific businesses" that Randy Kendrick's colleagues decried in their charter. Maybe these self-styled champions of liberty and freedom were too busy threatening one of Randy's husband's biggest competitors for the local sports dollar to take a principled stand.

This comes less than a year after Derrick Hall insisted the Dbacks dont take political positions as an organization, in response to club boycotts fueled by Republican immigration law. (Mr & Mrs Kendrick are significant Republican donors.) Shortly thereafter, however, Kendrick was caught red handed hosting a fundraiser for a vocal Republican SB1070 supporter. Not at Kendrick's private estate. At publicly financed Bank One Ballpark.  During games. Games which generate revenue from fans of every political stripe.


If the Goldwater Institute was litigating back in the day, it leaves one to wonder if they would have, or could have, halted construction of Bank One Ballpark itself, effectively depriving the Valley of major league baseball. It certainly seems consistent with their charter - and with their aggressive approach towards Glendale and the Coyotes. We'll never know if the presence of Randy Kendrick on the board would've altered Goldwater's practical approach or case selectivity way back then.

What seems clearer is Mr Kendrick's awkward application of political "principle". The controversial stadium financing forged by Republican Jerry Colangelo is still held in disdain by many libertarian, Goldwater types. So, it's more than a little amusing to watch his most outwardly critical business partner quietly benefit from those early taxpayer subsidies, then shrilly distance himself from the catalyst who took most of the funding heat and who made Kendrick's investment possible in the first place.

Finally, Kendrick engineers a $100-$150M stadium deal of his own, backed, predictably enough "in the background", with Obama stimulus. While Derrick Hall energetically tightropes the truth, assuring news outlets that "no tax dollars" were involved.

Hall was right when he said the Diamondbacks dont take "any" political position. They attach themselves to whatever story line appears to benefit Mr Kendrick at the moment - regardless of political principle. It's an ugly red stripe in the American flag. Declare with libertarian piety "Dont tread on me!" Your wife can even hold the bullhorn. But when government treads on others to grease your personal windfalls, keep your voice down and count the millions in silence.  

(hat tip: AZ Snakepit)


Anonymous said...

pure speculation! it seems the difference is the investment was in the facility not the team. Which was equally done for jobing.com. besides do 2 wrongs make a right?

Diamondhacks said...

The funding history presented is all public record. The impetus for the post was, indeed, to speculate on the Kendricks' true motivations, primarily because board member Randy's 'explanation' that she "has nothing to do with" the most high profile action in GWI history, doesnt sound especially plausible to me.

Mr and Mrs Kendrick are very active, influential political figures, hardly shy about pursuing their interests and world view with oversized wallets and mouths.

As far as the incidents of public welfare, sure they're different in many respects. I think the Kendricks (or GWI for that matter) might be well served to spell out those distinctions publicly, in an effort to, at least, appear politically consistent.

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