RICHMOND, Va. — Plans for a Washington Commanders stadium in Virginia, funded partly by taxpayers, took a hit with news the state’s attorney general has now opened a formal inquiry into allegations of financial wrongdoing by the team.
Wednesday, State Senator Dick Saslaw, who represents parts of Fairfax County and is leading the effort to bring the Commanders to Northern Virginia, had choice words when asked about that investigation and its potential impact on the stadium bill’s future.
“That’s all publicity crap,” Saslaw said as he walked out of a Senate Finance Committee meeting.
couldn’t hide his contempt for the latest investigation into Commanders owner Daniel Snyder. This one by the attorney general of his own state, Jason Miyares.
“I'm sorry that Senator Saslaw thinks that an allegation, and it's just an allegation, of over $5 million potentially defrauded from season ticket holders, many of which are Virginians is, in his words, just quote crap,” Miyares said. “He's entitled to his opinion. He's not entitled to his own facts. We're gonna go over the facts lead us.”
Miyares sent a letter to the team saying he planned to investigate allegations of financial wrongdoing reported to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, which includes allegations the team withheld security deposits from season ticket holders and ticket revenue from other NFL owners.
In the letter, Miyares writes:
“I view it as my responsibility to carefully examine the material facts regarding this matter...”
“I request full cooperation and transparency from the team."
The Attorney General’s Office of the District of Columbia has initiated a similar investigation. The Commanders deny wrongdoing.
“We have communicated with the Washington Commanders, and they've indicated they are going to be cooperating, and be forthright with us,” Miyares said. “As far as a timeline, I've been very explicit with my team, this is a measure twice, cut once moment. We're not on anyone's timeline, we're certainly not under the timeline of the General Assembly and any piece of legislation that may or may not come forth.
“Our job is to find out where the facts are and get to the truth.
Miryares's inquiry comes on the heels of investigations into sexual harassment in the team’s front office by Congress and the NFL and calls into question the future of the stadium financing bill still being debated here at the state legislature in Richmond, which represents Commanders owner Daniel Snyder’s last, best chance for any sort of public money to help him pay for his stadium project.
Saslaw wouldn’t say exactly why he recently amended his stadium funding bill by slashing the amount of money Virginia would offer Snyder from a billion dollars to roughly $300 million. But last month, one State Senator, who asked not to be identified so that he could speak freely on the issue, told WUSA9 “Public reaction to this project has been underwhelming. With every passing day, it’s evident the team lacks gravity.”
State Senator Janet Howell represents parts of Fairfax and Arlington Counties, and has opposed the Commanders stadium bill from the start and says the AG’s investigation could hamper the stadium financing legislation’s passage.
“It certainly hasn’t helped it has it?” Howell said. “Most women and reasonable men are appalled by (Snyder’s) actions.”
Saslaw said even at $300 million his stadium financing package would offer Snyder far less public money than most of the past 21 stadium deals nationally. And the latest investigation into the team’s workplace culture would not stop him from trying to push it through.
When asked if he still planned to ensure the stadium funding bill passed the state legislature before the special session ends, Saslaw said “We’ll do our best.”
Maryland has pledged to invest $400 million in the area around the team’s current stadium in Landover in an effort to convince the team to build there but has refused to offer any taxpayer money for the stadium itself.
Unlike Virginia and Maryland, there are no formal plans to bring the Commanders Stadium back to D.C.
Former FTC official says the agency is unlikely to take direct action against Snyder, investigating NFL revenue sharing allegations "not a good use of taxpayer resources."