Friday, June 25, 2010

The Big Ten and Chuck Grassley's Encroaching Senility

A bit more on the IRS and The Big Ten. Actually, a bit more on Senator Chuck Grassley and the Big Ten. Most of the speculation around the sports world today is that Grassley and Harkin made the request to the Big Ten for financial data on June 10th before Nebraska was made the offer to join the Big Ten, because they were upset that Iowa State wasn't in the running to be the twelfth member of the Big Ten or alternately that the Big 12 might desolve leaving ISU out in the cold.  The zietgeist is best captured by the

It turns out that on June 11th Grassley gave an interview to Radio Iowa on the topic. The reporter tells us Grassley's concern is the realignment "...could bring the demise of the Big 12 and hurt remaining schools like Iowa State University." So the zietgeist is on the mark.

In hindsight,  this interview is really interesting for what it reveals about Grassley.
Grassley says, “I’m not one that starts out with the idea Congress ought to or can solve every problem that we have and so I haven’t come to a conclusion of Congress doing anything.” He says there are some angles that could be investigated which may delay or prevent the conference realignment.

“The tax exempt status of these non-profit organizations and the other one is whether or not any anti-trust laws would be violated,” Grassley says. “In the case of anti-trust laws, Congress isn’t going to bring any action under anti-trust laws. That can only be the Attorney General, if there’s a reason for doing it because anti-trust laws have been pretty much the same for 120 years and we don’t prosecute, we only make laws.”
The bit that I've bolded isn't in quotes; its a paraphrase.  But according to the reporter,   Grassley believed that some sort of an  investigation might delay the realignment.

But is Grassley truly concerned that the actions of The Big Ten might jeopardize its tax-exempt status?

Critics of the conference change-ups remind that public universities are supposed to be focused on education, not on sports and making money. Grassley agrees. “Obviously, a tax exemption is for a specific purpose,” he says. “In the case of educational institutions, it’s for the education of kids, so does this in any way promote the education goals of the university?” Grassley says Congress can look into anything but it isn’t necessarily a good idea, and he clarified his comment on tax exemptions.

“I’m not looking for Congress to take action,” he says. “I’ve been asked by people is there anything Congress can do anything about it? I don’t know until you look into it and maybe even after that I’d say it’s not something we ought to get involved in. Lastly, I want to make clear I’m not trying to do anything about tax exemption. In fact, I’m just the opposite. I want to promote tax exemption.”

That's the rhetorical equivalent of a broken field run. Grassley is  telling the reporter, the day after he began an informal investigation into the tax-exempt status of The Big Ten, but a couple of weeks before that investigation became public knowledge, that Congress could look at the tax-exempt status of The  Big Ten, but he doesn't think that it's a good idea for Congress to get involved and, in fact, he supports the tax-exemption. Wow!

Look, I really hope that he and Harkin carry this investigation through, but my guess is that now that the Big Ten expansion is a done deal and The Big 12 hasn't fallen apart this thing is going to go quietly away.  But the real take away here, after watching Grassley's broken field running while he was negotiation HCR with Max Baucus, and now reading this, is that Grassley is getting senile.

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