Tuesday, May 13, 2003


Major League Baseball has its own political action committee:

Baseball, which is the only sport with a PAC, formed the committee last year, when the House and Senate judiciary committees were considering legislation to partially rescind the sport's antitrust exemption. Among other things, that exemption has allowed baseball to prevent teams from moving from city to city, as has happened in other sports.

Baseball lobbied to preserve the exemption and made contributions to judiciary committee members in both houses of Congress. It also dropped plans to eliminate two teams, which had sparked the bill. The legislation never made it out of committee.

The sport is also working to preserve its copyrights on the Internet, an issue that comes under the jurisdiction of the House and Senate commerce committees. A majority of the PAC's contributions went to members who sit on either judiciary or commerce.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig exercises control over the PAC. This will no doubt lead several anti-Selig sportswriters to renew their call for repealing the antitrust exemption. Selig opponents, however, should be mindful of the dangers of granting politicians more leverage over baseball's affairs:

Selig's predecessor, Fay Vincent, who was forced out as commissioner in 1992, said Congress has real power over the sport. He said Senate pressure in the 1980s led baseball to award expansion franchises to Denver and Miami in 1991.

"I don't think baseball would have expanded had it not been for the Senate, which really pushed very hard for teams in Colorado and Florida," Vincent said.

He recalled that senators, especially from those two states, threatened to push legislation rescinding baseball's antitrust exemption.

Baseball's over-expansion has been far worse for the sport's economic health than the antitrust exemption. It's forced the game to dilute its talent pool to the point of further exaggerating the gap between the high-income and low-income franchises. These are not things politicians consider, however, when they make their grand denounciations of the antitrust exemption; to members of Congress, baseball is simply another convenient political whipping boy.

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