By Michael Gormley, Associated Press Writer
A good-government group is calling for an ethics investigation into how New York Gov. David Paterson got his Yankees tickets for the first game of the World Series.
Paterson spokesman Peter Kauffmann said Monday the Democrat received a free ticket from the Yankees, which the administration said has been common practice for governors at such events. Kauffmann said Paterson paid for tickets for his son and his son’s friend and his staffer paid for his own at last week’s World Series opening game. The tickets cost $425 each.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said that if Paterson received special treatment the tickets could be a violation of the state’s ban on gifts to officials from lobbyists or groups doing business with the state.
“We believe that the commission should investigate the freebies,” Horner said.
The Yankees have regularly sought tax breaks for the new Yankee Stadium and have done other business with the state over several years.
Yankees spokeswoman Alice McGillion said Monday that the franchise did not initially offer Paterson free tickets and only provided free tickets after hearing from his lawyer that his appearance would constitute “official business.” She said Paterson has since offered to pay for four tickets.
“When the governor’s counsel says he’s on official business, we’re not the ethics police. The burden is on the governor’s office, not the Yankees,” she said.
McGillion said the Yankees initially offered Paterson the chance to purchase tickets.
“The Yankees did not offer him freebies. We offered him the opportunity to purchase tickets. We insisted and got a letter from his general counsel that he was on official business. Only then did we release the tickets,” she said.
Kauffmann said governors have long attended major events of importance in promoting and representing the state, including professional ball games. He provided a previous state legal opinion on lobbying that noted: “It is quite conceivable that attendance at events such as a professional ball game could have relevancy to the duties of that public official.”
But the opinion also seems to show a review of the details of each case is advised.
“The governor attended game one of the World Series in his official capacity, to represent the State of New York at a ceremonial occasion,” Kauffmann said. “All other tickets are being paid for.”
Complaints regarding the gift ban would be handled by the state Public Integrity Commission. Commission spokesman Walter Ayres said the panel is prohibited from confirming reports of investigations or commenting on them.
The New York Post first reported on the governor’s free ticket Monday.
AP Sports Writer Ron Blum in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.