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« | Home | »

What is the UFC trying to hide from the media in Florida by buying Governor Rick Scott’s loyalty?

By Zach Arnold | May 1, 2014

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The Orlando Sentinel recently published an article detailing a $100,000 political contribution made by Zuffa LLC (UFC) to the Republican Governor’s Association, earmarked for current Florida Governor Rick Scott. Rick Scott vs. Charlie Crist for the state’s Governorship is a political race from hell. Only Tallahassee could make Sacramento look competent.

The Sentinel report notes that the UFC made the donation while trying to re-write the state’s public records law for transparency. The donation was made on January 10th. Three weeks later, on January 31st, suddenly & magically a bill appeared in the state Senate. State senate bill 808:

Public Records/Florida State Boxing Commission; Providing an exemption from public records requirements for the information in the reports required to be submitted to the Florida State Boxing Commission by a promoter or obtained by the commission through audit of a promoter’s records; providing for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption; providing a statement of public necessity, etc.

So, what exactly is the UFC trying to hide from the press and from the public at large?

Here is the latest SB 808 bill text:

A bill to be entitled

An act relating to public records; creating s. 548.062, F.S.; providing an exemption from public records requirements for the information in the reports required to be submitted to the Florida State Boxing Commission by a promoter or obtained by the commission through audit of a promoter’s records; providing for future legislative review and repeal of the exemption; providing a statement of public necessity; providing a contingent effective date.

Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. Section 548.062, Florida Statutes, is created to read:

548.062 Public records exemption.— (1) As used in this section, the term “proprietary confidential business information” means information that is owned or controlled by the promoter; that is intended by the promoter to be and is treated by the promoter as private in that the disclosure of the information would cause harm to the promoter or its business operations; that has not been disclosed unless disclosed pursuant to a statutory provision, an order of a court or administrative body, or a private agreement that provides that the information will not be released to the public; and that concerns any of the following:

(a) The number of ticket sales for a match.
(b) The amount of gross receipts after a match.
(c) Trade secrets as defined in s. 688.002.
(d) Business plans.
(e) Internal auditing controls and reports of internal auditors.
(f) Reports of external auditors.
(2) Proprietary confidential business information provided in the written report required to be filed with the commission after a match or obtained by the commission through an audit of the promoter’s books and records pursuant to s. 548.06 is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1) and s. 24(a), Art. I 38 of the State Constitution. Information made confidential and 39 exempt by this subsection may be disclosed to another 40 governmental entity in the performance of its duties and responsibilities.

(3) This section is subject to the Open Government Sunset Review Act in accordance with s. 119.15 and shall stand repealed on October 2, 2019, unless reviewed and saved from repeal 45 through reenactment by the Legislature.

Section 2. The Legislature finds that it is a public necessity that proprietary confidential business information be protected from disclosure. The disclosure of proprietary confidential business information could injure a promoter in the marketplace by giving the promoter’s competitors insights into its financial status and business plan, thereby putting the promoter at a competitive disadvantage. The Legislature also 53 finds that the harm to a promoter in disclosing proprietary confidential business information significantly outweighs any public benefit derived from disclosure of the information. For 56 these reasons, the Legislature declares that any proprietary confidential business information provided in the written report that is required to be filed with the commission after a match or obtained by the commission through an audit of the promoter’s books and records pursuant to s. 548.06, Florida Statutes, is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07(1), Florida Statutes, and s. 24(a), Article I of the State Constitution.

Section 3. This act shall take effect on the same date that SB 810 or similar legislation takes effect, if such legislation is adopted in the same legislative session or an extension thereof and becomes law.

Action is hot-and-heavy in both the state Senate and House to get this as passed as quickly as possible with pairing bills, leading to Governor Rick Scott to sign off. He gets campaign cash from the UFC, the UFC likely is promising to run more events in the state on regular basis, and the UFC gets more secrecy in shielding documents they have to submit to the athletic commission. If the UFC is promising to bring more fights to Florida (because there’s no state income tax), that means another state is going to lose out. Let me take a wild guess: California.

And the sadly amusing part is that Cynthia Hefren, who was appointed to be the state auditor examining the mess that Tom Molloy made when he was Executive Director, ended up with Molloy’s job and a big pay raise. She’s paid $90,000 a year. She’s making more than the athletic commission bosses in California or Texas and close to what Bob Bennett is going to get paid in Nevada!

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 19 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

19 Responses to “What is the UFC trying to hide from the media in Florida by buying Governor Rick Scott’s loyalty?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    Don’t have time to fully comment on this article right now, but this is why Zach Arnold is so awesome. This is some great reporting….

  2. rst says:

    Well if you were fishing around to buy some political loyalty,
    Florida sounds like friendly territory.

  3. Bob Carson says:

    This is great reporting, no doubt. However, Station Casinos, from my understanding, also kicked a 100K. It’s amazing how special interests by throwing around a little money can get legislation passed.

  4. Rob Maysey says:

    Well done Zach.

    Station did also kick in $100k.

    My experience from the California legislative effort can be summed up by the following quote, which I was also told on the same visit:

    “You are finally seeing how the sausage gets made.”

    I was disturbed by the whole process honestly.

    According to the article, Station Casinos (majority owned by Fertittas) also kicked in $100k.

  5. 45 Huddle says:

    Any time a company goes to great lengths to hide information from the public that is already public, it is typically a bad sign.

    The UFC continues to make all of the wrong moves.

    • Jason says:

      Maybe you would be willing to offer your “internet expertise” to three millionaires who bought a company for $2 million and have turned it into a multi-million dollar company. I’m sure they would be all ears to hear how your vast expertise on the internet could benefit them. You act like businesses making donations to politicians is a new thing. How do you think congressman/congresswomen and the President are elected. Unions were throwing millions at the democratic super PAC to make sure Obama was elected. Businesses do it on both sides, Republican and Democract. Zuffa, LLC is a privately held Company, so they are not required to diclose an annual report to the public, this bill continues to protect their financial and proprietary information, who cares. So a bunch of whinning internet bloggers can’t get their hands on tickets sales or receipts or the UFC’s business plans…good for them. I would do the same thing in their position.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        1) Fertitta inherited his fortune. And not only did he get that $2 Million from his daddy to buy the UFC…. But all of those $40 Million he went through to keep it afloat was also due to his daddy.

        2) When did I ever say making political donations was a new thing? Never.

        3) This has nothing to do with Republican vs. Democrat.

        4) This bill is not intended to protect proprietary information. They don’t want the number of tickets sold released. They don’t want gate information released. This is not proprietary information. Many arenas around the country were supported by tax payer dollars. The public has a right to know what is happening with the arena.

        Nobody can claim I am a Zuffa hater hear. I spent years defending the company. And the last year has been like one giant “how to screw up your company” playbook. These sorts of bills they are trying to get passed is just another example of it.

        • Steve4192 says:

          The Fertitta’s did not ‘inherit their fortune’.

          They inherited a small local casino and turned it into an empire. Frank II opened the original Palace Station casino, but it was his sons who expanded the business and made Station Casinos a powerhouse in the Las Vegas gaming scene. The Palace Station that Frank II built is only a fraction of the current Station portfolio.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The company went public under Fertitta Jr’s last big push before retirement. And you are right, the casino have greatly increased from there. But III & Frank were handed 99% of what they needed to do what they did from there. You are kidding yourself if you think their fortune wasn’t inherited. 100 out of 100 people couldn’t be where they are now in the casino business without a parent already so far into the business. It is also the reason why Lorenzo got a job on the NSAC. You think if he wasn’t born to that family he would have gotten that job? Absolutely not.

          In 2006 the Fertitta Brothers went to buyback shares of the company to go private. Jr was not dead yet, so where was his ownership in the company? One of two things:

          1) When they went public in 1993 his sons get the majority of the shares.

          2) He already transferred the money before his passing.

          I see if I can find the actual IPO information to get an exact answer, but the result is the same.

        • Jason says:

          1) My point for brining up the Fertitta’s being millionaires and growing the UFC into a multi-million dollar company, is they are successful at what they are doing, yet you critize their every move like you think you are some kind of expert. I would love to know your credentials in running a succesful business, or are you just another internet expert who thinks he knows everything and has the answer to everything. Are they going to make mistakes, sure; however, I assure you they are well aware of the numbers they are pulling.

          2)My point for bringing up businesses making political donations is to state alot of business do it, yet Zach in yet another biased article claims the UFC is hiding something by doing such. It’s clear Zach has an agenda against the UFC, that cannot be denied and clearly you are his biggest fan boy, evidenced by the first post in this thread. ‘Zach is so awesome’..really.

          3)Did you read the bill? It clearly states it protects proprietary information as well as financial information (i.e. ticket sales, etc…). The fact that the arena is supported with taxpayers dollars gives them (taxpayers) no right to a private company’s information. If taxpayers want to see the financials of the arena they can contact the city and it will give them the annual report for the year and from there an individual can determine if the arena has the ability to cash flow the bonds payments.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          First, I do not criticize every move of Zuffa’s. I was a LONG TIME defender of the company. Anybody who has frequented this board know that. Some would even say I defended Zuffa to a fault.

          You don’t need to be some wiz kid to know that the UFC is going down a really bad path right now. The writing is on the wall. They aren’t just making small mistakes. They are making big mistakes and many of them. They are losing their fan base due to these dumb decisions.

          And you do realize if you gave most people with a solid college degree…. gave them a bunch of political connections and then told them they could run a company up to $40 Million in the hole before turning a profit… They could probably be successful long term. Zuffa:

          1) Failed Miserably ($40 Million Debt)

          2) Got lucky on a last ditch effort. (TUF)

          3) Got hugely popular.

          4) Lost almost all of their fanbase. (See Current Numbers)

          5) Haven’t been able to create one star since the unexpected popularity boost a few years ago.

          I would say the verdict still isn’t out on if they can be successful with the UFC. I know that sounds insane, but it is true. They hit a huge wave of popularity a few years ago. They have not been able to create one star since then. Basically, whoever was fighting during that area became huge stars in the fans eyes by default. Since then they have lost star after star and are absolutely lost trying to do it again. I would say that we won’t know if they are truly a force until they can become popular again (if they ever do at all).

          “Did you read the bill? It clearly states it protects proprietary information as well as financial information (i.e. ticket sales, etc…). The fact that the arena is supported with taxpayers dollars gives them (taxpayers) no right to a private company’s information.”

          Of course I read the bill. The financial information they are trying to “protect” is also something the taxpayers have a right to know. Which is why the taxpayers currently have a right to know that information in MOST states in America.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          One last point…

          If the UFC Fighters and their managers were given full access to the books, then I would have no problem keeping this information private.

          But they don’t have access to the books. They have no clue how much the UFC is making off of there fights. Which is why this stuff needs to be public, to give the fighters more power.

  6. The Gaijin says:

    Haven’t had a chance to actively participate in a while, so sorry for posting this “out of date” piece here. I am referring the the article and Zach’s statement here.

    http://www.fightopinion.com/2014/04/17/california-lame-duck-andy-foster-spencer-walker/#more-16274

    Since I am a man of disclosure, I’ll address this little criticism here. Last February, I wrote a letter citing the California Public Records Act to request some e-mails. And then I got a bill estimate in March of over $12,000. Being accused of “seizing” e-mail records is an interesting way to label a media records request. Even more interesting is the fact that the records request apparently was leaked and discussed with other media writers. I suppose it was an attempt to chill. I just find it peculiar.

    Zach – did they tell you it was this much because of costs to print (and quoted some ridiculous price like $5/pg incl. “admin fees”)? There is strong case-law regarding this being used to prevent/prohibit citizens from accessing public records and requiring the State/Gov’t to provide electronic/CD copies for something like $10. You should look into that if you really want to push it.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      They claimed that they had to print all e-mails at 10 cents a page and spend 320 man hours at $30 an hour for redaction.

      If I wanted to challenge the $ tag in court, I would have to pay out at least $5,000 up front to an attorney for a writ of mandate in hopes of a lawyer winning and having attorney fees picked up after the win. This is why state agencies know they can get away with this behavior. Plus a writ of mandate has to be filed in the county where the records are stored (Sacramento) and most judges would not consider a case where price is the issue for debate.

  7. When I requested the tape recordings of the CSAC minutes in the past I caught them not including the truth in the written minutes. Then they wanted to charge me huge dollars. This CSAC is so corrupt.

  8. The Judge says:

    Oh yeah, great reporting…
    1. What is UFC’s overall lobbying spending record? Is a hundred thousand dollar donation unprecedented?
    2. What amount of money has been donated to Rick Scott’s campaign overall? (by other donors)

  9. [...] What is the UFC trying to hide from the media in Florida by buying Governor Rick Scott’s loyal… [...]

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