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Free tickets helped Cardinals build relationships with Arizona legislators


** THIS CORRECTS THAT THE PERSON AT RIGHT IS ARIZONA CARDINALS OWNER BILL BIDWELL, AND NOT TENNESSEE TITANS OWNER BUD ADAMS, AND ADDS THAT THE PERSON AT LEFT IS ARIZONA CARDINALS PRESIDENT MICHAEL BIDWELL ** Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell right, arrives at a hotel in Chantilly, Va., Wednesday, March 2, 2011. Person at left is Cardinals president Michael BidwellThe ninth session at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington came on the same day that the league’s 32 team owners were gathering at a hotel about 25 miles away in Chantilly, Va. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and all 10 members of the owners’ labor committee left the mediation after about four hours of talks. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)


The Arizona Cardinals’ stadium was built with nearly $350 million from taxpayers, which means the state legislature gets to make some of the decisions about how the stadium is used. The Cardinals haven’t always liked the decisions that legislators have made.

So in an effort to get the legislature to to go along with the team’s wishes, the Cardinals have given legislators free tickets.

The Arizona Republic has a look today at the practice of giving tickets to legislators in Arizona, which Cardinals spokesman Mark Dalton said was done to “build a better relationship” with lawmakers.

Of course, lawmakers aren’t supposed to do favors for businesses because they’ve received free products from those businesses and therefore developed a “better relationship.” They’re supposed to represent the interests of the people who elected them. But it will come as no surprise to anyone who follows American democracy that it doesn’t always work that way.

In fact, from the Cardinals’ point of view, giving away free tickets was necessary in large part to keep up with the Fiesta Bowl, which has been embroiled in a scandal that involved, among other things, giving politicians free tickets. The Cardinals lost a battle with the Fiesta Bowl over use of the stadium for the 2007 BCS Championship Game and subsequently took an “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” philosophy regarding the Fiesta Bowl’s practices toward state legislators.

“It was clear to us, particularly after the 2005 legislative session pertaining to the BCS game, that the team’s relationship with the Legislature was not as strong as it could be,” Dalton said.

None of this is particularly surprising. But it would be nice if the Cardinals would follow the lead of the Phoenix Coyotes and Phoenix Suns, who told the Arizona Republic they do not give free tickets to legislators, with one executive calling it “a bad idea.”