King says Citi's naming-rights deal good business
BY JIM BAUMBACH
February 11, 2009
Calling it "money well spent," Long Island congressman Peter King (R-Seaford) yesterday defended Citigroup's $400-million naming-rights contract with the Mets on the basis that it's a "justified business expenditure."
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) agreed, saying it's not Congress' job to "micromanage" advertising budgets of companies, even if they've received government bailout funds.
Today on Capitol Hill, the CEO of Citigroup will sit alongside the heads of seven other banks that have received bailout money. It is expected that they will be grilled on their usage of the public funds, and it's possible that Citi's contract with the Mets could be raised.
But King and Ackerman, who are both members of the House Financial Services Committee hosting today's hearing, have no problem with the naming-rights deal continuing in the wake of the bank recently receiving $45 million in TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) funds.
The most vocal critics have been Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ted Poe (R-Texas), who sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Jan. 29 requesting that Citigroup dissolve its deal with the Mets.
"They have a contract," Ackerman said, "and it was signed before all of this happened."
Ackerman and King lauded the deal from a business perspective. And neither was bothered by the notion that taxpayers are indirectly helping Citigroup.
"I'm sure they're going to show that technically it's not" TARP money being used for the naming-rights deal, King said. "But I'm just saying, looking at it honestly, this 20 million may not have been available if they didn't have TARP money to take care of other liabilities they have."
King said being connected to a major-league baseball franchise is a good marketing move. "I'm old enough to have gone to Brooklyn Dodgers games at Ebbets Field," he said. "I saw Ebbets Field being torn down. I believe there is a value attached to a ballpark for a community. All of that will cause people to think better of Citigroup. So I think it's a legitimate business expense."
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