Our Views: Officials get special deal

Paying $850 for admission to a football game doesn’t seem like much of a bargain to us.

But believe it or not, that’s a cheap price to pay for a ticket to Sunday’s Super Bowl game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

State lawmakers were able to buy two tickets for the event at face value, which ranges from $850 to $1,250, thanks to a sweetheart deal offered by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. The average price for a Super Bowl ticket is $3,195.14, according to one industry website.

Benson offered lawmakers the chance to buy tickets as a thank-you for their support in securing the Super Bowl for New Orleans, according to an email that he sent legislators.

This isn’t the first time that state lawmakers have been offered a chance to get bargain tickets for marquee sporting events, but even so, we haven’t gotten used to the idea that legislators should get such perks simply for holding a public office. This is influence-peddling in the worst Louisiana tradition.

Not all lawmakers accepted the ticket deal, and we’re glad about that. But some of them — such as state Sens. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, and Robert Adley, R-Benton — said they gave other people access to the tickets after deciding not to buy the tickets themselves.

That kind of transaction troubles us, too. In dispensing this steep ticket discount to favored constituents, lawmakers get to use a perk of their office to curry political favor in their districts.

Benson’s Saints depend on lavish, taxpayer-funded support — a policy that depends on legislative approval. We’ve long recognized the economic value of the Saints’ presence in New Orleans, and we’ll continue to wish the Saints well. But it’s simply not appropriate to reward lawmakers with special access to sporting events. Citizens need assurance that state officials are supporting economic players such as the Saints and the Super Bowl on the merits — and not as a quid pro quo for special favors.