Beltway Confidential

ESPN and Connecticut shake each other down

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Connecticut,Big Government,Analysis,Free Market,Subsidies,Corporate Welfare

If you ever doubted Tim Carney's contention that big governments and big businesses form natural alliances, read the New York Times' Connecticut.html?hpw&rref=sports&_r=0">piece on ESPN's relationship with Connecticut politicians (and Connecticut taxpayers).

"By the spring of 2000, ESPN had shed its roots as a small start-up and was beginning to look more like a mature corporate behemoth," the Times' Steve Eder writes. "That is when ESPN did what other big, multinational companies had done: It went to the statehouse in Hartford and sought financial incentives in exchange for continued growth in Connecticut."

Apparently ESPN has run this play more than once, and so enjoys $260 million in state incentives. "A recurring theme in ESPN’s dealings with the state is that the company could move its operations elsewhere," Eder found. "When [Gov. Dan Malloy, D-Conn.] announced ESPN’s inclusion in 'First Five,' a state plan to create jobs and promote business development, he said the network had other places where it could have invested. He mentioned recent production facilities in Los Angeles and Austin, Tex."

ESPN has its critics in the state, but they don't oppose the idea of the government nurturing businesses through special incentives as a matter of principle.

"The critics say incentives should be redirected to smaller companies that are more in need than ESPN, which accounts for nearly half the operating profit of Disney, its corporate parent," Eder writes.

And for all ESPN's manipulation of Connecticut lawmakers, the Times' presentation of the story makes state officials sound as if the process has made them feel downright possessive of the company.

"Everyone seems to agree that ESPN is a shining success story for Connecticut, in terms of the state’s early support of an upstart through its development into an international powerhouse," Eder writes. "Mr. Malloy, a Democrat who will be up for re-election in 2014, says no lobbying is needed to convince him of what he considers obvious: ESPN is one of Connecticut’s best resources, and the state must use all tools available to aid its growth and keep its home base and the thousands of well-paying jobs it promises in Bristol."

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