Monday, November 9, 2015

Mark Foley is Alive and Well and Living in Palm Beach

Today, Commissioner Rob Manfred will be on hand for the groundbreaking of the Nationals' and Astros' new spring-training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. He'll probably show up in some photos wearing a goofy hard hat and an artificial smile. But he might not be smiling so widely if he knew what—or who—led to that groundbreaking.

In case you were wondering whatever happened to ex-Congressman Mark Foley—the Republican who resigned in disgrace just before the 2006 elections for sending sexually explicit messages to congressional pages—wonder no longer. Like so many who once graced the halls of Congress, Foley is now working as a lobbyist—and one of his clients is the Washington baseball club.

According to Washingtonian magazine, Foley was instrumental in helping the Nats identify and secure the site of their new spring-training facility in Foley's hometown:
"The connection began in 2013, when Foley ran into a friend at the 
West End Ritz-Carlton. The friend, he says, knew an assistant to Nats 
co-owner Mark Lerner and mentioned that the team was looking for a new spring-training spot. Foley knew of a parcel, so he says he cold-called Lerner to sell him on West Palm."
Foley persuaded Lerner to take a tour of the site with him:
"By January 2014, Foley—who has been in local politics since he was 23 and says he knows 'every city and county commissioner'—was joining Lerner and Lerner Enterprises’ head of development as they met with local officials."
Foley wasn't selling himself short—he turned out to be an effective enough lobbyist, despite his past, to get the deal through. In a deal that will undoubtedly thrill opponents of public financing for sports stadiums, the Palm Beach County Commissioned OKed a $135 million deal in August. Costs have since risen to $144 million and are expected to shoot up to $233 million. Palm Beach County is on the hook for $116 million; the state of Florida will chip in $50 million more.

On one hand, this story isn't really surprising. Baseball teams often use lobbyists for their many interactions with local government, especially when it comes to matters of stadium-building and taxation. It's just the Nats' bad luck that the man with the in in their neck of the woods would be so infamous. According to Washingtonian, the team declined to comment on the story—no doubt ashamed of their association with the accused pedophile. But not ashamed enough, apparently, not to use him to acquire the ideal spring-training site.

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