How NJ Politicians—Democrats & Republicans —Stuck It To Consumers

Promoted by Rosi, who is not convinced Jimmy Hoffa’s body is in the Meadowlands. Super Bowling for dollars; not cool. Here’s Marie Corfield’s site.


“Are you ready for some football good ole’ fashioned consumer screwing?”

I’ve been quiet and not writing for some time. The “shock and awe” of Trumplandia has left me mouth-agape, clinging to the lifesavers tossed by our better angels in the not-“fake news” who remind me that while the rudder is shaking, the seas are rough, and we’ve taken on water, the good ship USS Democracy is holding steady—so far.

With PARCC testing, the minimum wage, legal pot, lax oversight of corporate tax breaks, and the usual political sliminess that defines the Garden State all making headlines recently, there’s no shortage of subject matter. But with the NFL playoffs starting, synchronicity was at work. As I was reading the Star Ledger this story about the 2014 Super Bowl caught my eye:

So? That was five years ago. What does all this have to do with the ‘All Dem, All the Time’ New Jersey State Legislature and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy? Well, this entire story is a shining example of elected officials feeding their egos at the expense of citizens, elected officials allowing big corporations to stuff their wallets at the expense of consumers and how electeds make back-room deals in the dead of night and there’s not a damned thing we can do about it. Stick with me and you’ll see…

While “New York/New Jersey” won the bid to host Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, New York got all the glamor and New Jersey got… nothin’. We’ve always been the ugly stepsister of New York, despite the fact that both the Giants and the Jets play at MetLife Stadium in Secaucus, a stone’s throw from Manhattan, the only thing between it and The Big Apple being the forever-under-construction-American Dream Mall—and possibly Jimmy Hoffa’s body.

In 2013, then-Gov. Chris Christie touted the event as a windfall for New Jersey, promising huuuuge (ooops, sorry, wrong NJ bloviator) big revenues for our state which was reeling under the weight of nine credit downgrades (a record eleven by the time he left office). But, as with most things Christie, it didn’t pan out.

In fact, it was a financial disaster. Not only did the NFL skip town leaving an $18 million unpaid tab, local businesses and municipalities lost approximately $600 million in revenues because they were denied the right to use any Super Bowl branding to promote watch parties, and all the official events in the week leading up to the game were held in New York City. Even the hotels right near the stadium got screwed because attendees were forced to use mass transit. New Jersey spent—and lost—tens of millions in infrastructure and security upgrades, and snow removal contingencies. It was the most expensive Super Bowl to date. How expensive? We may never know.

A definitive cost for the New Jersey Super Bowl has never been tallied. An NFL spokesman said they do not provide such figures and the state treasury officials said they did not do any extensive economic analysis (of course not). A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie declined comment, but pointed to earlier statements by the governor, saying the costs to New Jersey on balance “would be outweighed by the benefits given to the state and the region by having the Super Bowl here.” (emphasis and snark mine)

Ummm… no. We lost. Bigly. And so did fans. See, actually attending a Super Bowl isn’t for ordinary Joe Schmoes like you and me. It’s insider baseball—er—football. Ninety-nine percent of the tickets for that game were reserved for the teams and other VIPs, and the one percent that was available for purchase by fans who had to win a lottery (boy, does this sound familiar) in order to even purchase them were going for exorbitant prices. One fan, Josh Finkelman, was only able to purchase tickets for $2000 each, twice their face value. He called foul and filed a lawsuit against the NFL citing New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act that is supposed to protect consumers from just this sort of thing. Unfortunately, he lost.

In writing the unanimous decision, State Supreme Court Justice, and Christie appointee, Judge Anne Patterson*** wrote that this practice “does not constitute the unlawful withholding of more than 5 percent [of tickets]. The tickets at the heart of plaintiff’s action were part of the 99 percent of tickets reserved long before the 2014 Super Bowl for specific entities with ties to the NFL. Those tickets were never destined to be part of a public sale.”

Finkelman’s attorney, Bruce Nagel, shot back:

It’s the most anti-consumer opinion that has been issued in decades out of New Jersey,” said Bruce Nagel, a partner at Nagel Rice LLP in Rosewood, New Jersey. “The Legislature passed a law to ensure the public had access to fair-priced tickets and the Supreme Court, at least with regard to the Super Bowl, basically nullified the statute. It’s a sad day for consumers under this ruling today.

So, how did Finkelman lose a case that seemed like a no-brainer win? Could this possibly have something to do with it?

[In August], Gov. Phil Murphy… signed a controversial bill that restructures the state’s law on ticket sales, repealing 17-year-old rules that were intended to protect consumers.

Lawmakers quietly sent the measure to Murphy in early July as they wrapped up weeks of intense budget negotiations, moving the bill through both houses so quickly that there were no public hearings on it.

While sponsors say the bill, NJ A 4259 (18R), is intended to protect consumers — it includes a number of provisions meant to do just that — it also repeals a law barring anyone with access to tickets that haven’t gone on sale from withholding more than 5 percent of those tickets from the general public.

(Remember, the NFL withheld 99%!)

In a statement accompanying his signature, Murphy said he understood the concerns people have about that aspect of the bill, but believes the provision puts the state at a competitive disadvantage and had sewn confusion into the industry. He noted neither New York nor Pennsylvania have this “holdback” rule.

“Entertainers have an interest in rewarding their most loyal fans with access to live performances, and the 5 percent cap can act as a hindrance to this objective in certain circumstances… (I bet Bruce and Bon Jovi could count a lot more than 5% of NJ concert-goers as ‘loyal fans’) Moreover, the difficulty in identifying tickets that have been held back and tickets that are available to the general public has led to substantial confusion and ongoing litigation, particularly when entertainers reserve tickets for groups that can encompass a wide subset of the population.” (So, fix it, don’t scrap it.)

The governor instead called on Congress to pass a bill creating a comprehensive federal approach “that will promote competition and protect consumers.” (Congress? Seriously? Good luck with that.) He noted Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) sponsors such a measure…

Pascrell said he was pleased the governor had endorsed his federal legislation, but said he was disappointed Murphy was moving forward with the New Jersey bill. The measure, the congressman said, will worsen an industry that “has been increasingly hostile to music and sports fans just looking to enjoy some entertainment without being gouged.”

“Too much of this bill takes the wrong approach to addressing the unregulated, multi-billion dollar ticket marketplace,” Pascrell said in a statement. “Addressing speculative ticket reselling is a welcome policy. But the whole law reads like a wish list from Ticketmaster, a company almost universally loathed by consumers. Eliminating limits on withholding tickets from the public while hindering transparency in pricing are steps in the wrong direction.” (emphasis and snark mine)

And there you have it. Arguably the most Democratic state in the country, that elected a self-described progressive governor last year, quietly stuck it to her citizens.

This story isn’t just about football, but this weekend was the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest Super Bowls in my lifetime: Super Bowl III, Broadway Joe Namath and the Jest vs. the Baltimore Colts. In a (for that time) shocking display of bravado, chutzpah and plain ole’ confidence, Namath infamously predicted the Jets would wipe the floor with the Colts. And they did. Those were simpler times, when the Super Bowl was about the game, not days-long pre-game shows, ‘wardrobe malfunctions’, $2 thousand dollar tickets and $2 million dollar commercials, and all those endless stats. But what do I know? I was a mere 10-year old girl who thought Joe Namath was pretty awesome and bet my father that he was right. I won.

Fifty years later, New Jersey consumers lost.

Adding…

Here’s the full game. Sit back and kick it old school for a couple of hours.

*** Please be sure to read the link to the Blue Jersey article that details exactly how Judge Patterson gained her seat on the New Jersey Supreme Court. It’s sickening. The People’s Organization for Progress Chair, Larry Hamm described her as a lawyer who had “consistently chosen to vigorously champion the interests of deadly corporate giants against the interests of the people” 

Comments (2)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    You should consider running for Governor in 2021, Marie. Assuming that Murphy isn’t forced to resign before then, I expect that Sweeney will probably take him on in the Democratic primary election even though he really should just be honest and run as the Republican that he is.

    That said, progressives deserve a better choice than bad (Murphy) or terrible (Sweeney). A 3rd candidate who is truly progressive, bracketed with her/his own slate of Assembly, Senate, county, and local candidates could pull off an upset.

    Reply
    1. Marie Corfield

      Bertin, you are too kind. But I much prefer watching the birds from my kitchen window as I write. Plus, it was hard enough running a legislative race as a teacher. Can’t quit my day job.

      Reply

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