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Congressmen want Citigroup to drop sponsorship

Citi Field, the N.Y. Mets' new stadium, is a $400 million deal that

February 01, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two congressmen want Citigroup out of Citi Field.

Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Ted Poe are urging the Obama administration to demand that Citigroup drop its $400 million, 20-year naming rights deal for Citi Field, the New York Mets' new stadium scheduled to open in April, because of $45 billion the bank received in government aid.

"At Citigroup, 50,000 people will lose their jobs. Yet in the boardroom of Citigroup, spending $400 million to put a name on stadium seems like a good idea," said Kucinich, an Ohio Democrat.

Citigroup reached its agreement with the Mets three years ago. It is among several American banks that have received financial assistance from the federal government in recent months.

"Citigroup claimed it was on the brink of financial disaster, then demanded and took $45 billion from the taxpayers through government giveaways," said Poe, a Texas Republican. "While average Americans are hunkering down worried about their jobs, food, clothes, and mortgage payments, these irresponsible executives are blowing hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars."

The two congressmen made their pitch in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner this week.

The Treasury Department did not respond to messages left Friday, but both the Mets and Citigroup called Citi Field a done deal.

"The Mets are fully committed to our contract with Citi," the team said in a statement.

"Citi remains committed to this legally binding agreement," said Citigroup spokesman Steve Silverman. "Citi Field continues to provide a very positive way for us to support our community and to connect with present and future customers."

Kucinich did not back down in a telephone interview Friday. "It's a whole new ball game," he said. "And it's a ball game that doesn't allow for corporate privateers to continue to ransack the public domain, and that's exactly what's going on here."

Kucinich and Poe aren't the first politicians to take a swing at the naming deal. Last November, two New York City councilmen, Vincent Ignizio and James Oddo of Staten Island, said the park should be renamed Citi/Taxpayer Field.

Kucinich, who has held investigations into the financing of Yankee Stadium through his Domestic Policy subcommittee, said the panel will soon hold a hearing into stadium naming deals as well.

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