Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Malloy And Crony Capitalist Stimulation

TicketNetwork President Donald Vaccaro got himself into a bit of a pickle at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Excessive stimulation along with a bout of bad manners – the two sometimes hang out together – may have been at the root of Mr. Vaccaro’s undoing.

“Vaccaro, 49, allegedly groped women at an Academy Awards charity event in Hartford,” The Day of New London notes.” The women were apparently not impressed with his well-lubricated ‘charm.’ When he reportedly grabbed one woman around her breasts, a bouncer intervened. Mr. Vaccaro proceeded to dismiss him as a ‘black mother-(insert obvious expletive),’ according to police accounts. They arrested the ticket mogul on various charges, including for a hate crime.”

After his arrest, Mr. Vaccaro’s world melted very quickly. It was remarked in several newspapers that this latest grope was not his first and that once he sued someone for having referred to his business as “ticket scalping.”

Ticket scalpers, as everyone knows, do not receive millions of tax dollars from Governor Dannel Malloy’s “First Five” program, a crony capitalist political venture that dispenses money awards to three kinds of businesses: successful companies that do not need the funds to support their operations; capital poor businesses that may need a hand-up from taxpayers to support operations unfunded by investors; and bribable companies that will accept millions in tax revenue in return for providing, as was the case with TicketNetwork, employment opportunities that cost the state about $7.75 million.

The governor’s office announced in mid-July:

“In consideration of the company’s $15.35 million investment in its facility and commitment to retain 292 jobs and create an additional 200-600 full-time jobs in Connecticut, TicketNetwork will receive up to $7.75 million in state assistance:

“A 10-year, $4.5 million loan from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) for the purchase of equipment, furniture and fixtures, building acquisition, facility improvements and other eligible project-related activities.

“A 5-year, $1.8 million loan from the Connecticut Development Authority for information technology, furniture and fixtures and other equipment.
“A software engineer training grant ranging from $250,000 for 200 jobs created to $450,000 for 600 jobs created.

“A grant up to $1 million for alternative energy via installation of a fuel cell, wind or solar-powered energy system.”
The state, Mr. Malloy said when he announced his “investment” in TicketNetwork and its serial groping CEO in July 2011, was pleased to shovel tax dollars in the direction of Mr. Vaccaro: “And you know, there’s a certain value to identifying serial entrepreneurs who in their very fiber, in their very bone marrow have the ability to come up with great ideas, great concepts, bring them to the marketplace, prove them and grow them.”

Almost immediately after news reports appeared recounting the awkward incidents involving Mr. Vaccaro, including charges of a hate crime and a threatened suit, politicians who had gratefully accepted his campaign contributions were, according to a report in CTNewsJunkie, “stumbling over themselves” to dump the contributions into charitable organizations: “House Speaker Chris Donovan’s congressional campaign gave $1,000 to the Meriden Women and Families Center, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy gave his $1,000 to the WOW/NRZ Community Learning Center in Waterbury, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney gave his $2,400 to a New London shelter and Vernon Community Program.”

Possibly the lurid details included in a suit filed against TicketNetwork in December 2010 by another of Mr. Vaccaro’s female victims – a full seven months before the state decided to shower the CEO with tax revenue -- spurred press conscious politicians to uncouple themselves from Mr. Vaccaro’s generous campaign contributions.

The best and most problem free method of spurring enterprise in the state is by providing a “level playing field,” Senator Dick Blumenthal’s formulation, for both instate and inmigrating business through business tax reductions and regulatory downsizing, certain methods of job growth that violate the ethos of governors and legislators whose ambition it is to micromanage private companies while leaving governmental operations largely untouched.

It remains very much an open question whether Mr. Malloy and his Democratic confederates in the General Assembly would be willing to detach themselves from a crony capitalist polity in which politicians rather than market investors pick economic winners and losers. A capably run financing organization almost certainly would have been more diligent in investing their clients’ funds in an operation a step removed from ticket scalping run by a CEO well known for his political manipulation and alcoholic inspired misogyny. But of course the taxpayer funds “invested” by Mr. Malloy in TicketNetwork were not his, and his “investors” are not likely to trace their bad investment to campaign greedy politicians or manipulative CEOs anxious to take advantage of a pay-to-play scheme that gives them an edge up on competitors not favored by glory seeking command economy politicians.
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