For more than a decade, BP has operated a hush-hush phone line that California lawmakers can call to request box seats to NBA games and concerts at the Sacramento stadium named after its West Coast subsidiary.
In the past five years, BP has given state officials more than 1,200 complimentary tickets to the Arco* Arena, hosting them in its corporate suite to see Sacramento Kings games, World Extreme Cagefighting matches, and Britney Spears and Lil Wayne concerts. Getting the tickets is as easy as calling the BP ticket request line, an exclusive, unpublished phone number that appears to exist for the sole purpose of granting freebies to lawmakers, regulators, and their staffs.
"You make a request, leave it on the voicemail, and at some date the tickets either magically appear or they don't," says a legislative consultant who gave me the ticket line's number and spoke on condition of anonymity. "They don't talk to you; you just see 'em or you don't." The ticket line's message was taken down sometime in the past week, shortly after I began my reporting. You can still listen to the original recording below.
*Acronym for Atlantic Richfield Co.
Stern says the ticket giveaways illustrate why California's ethics rules need to be tightened. "These tickets, in a sense, are worth more than their face value," Stern says. The third-smallest stadium in the NBA, the Arco Arena has some of the basketball league's highest ticket prices and sells out nearly every game. It's also unclear whether the face value of the free tickets, which BP has reported as being as much as $170 for Kings games, reflect their actual cost to the company. Arco Arena would not disclose the price of a corporate suite.
Now that the BP ticket request line isn't picking up, lawmakers may have to find a new way to score free tix from the world's most-hated oil company. But the persistent can always give it a try: (916) 444-7968.
Everything BP does pisses me off. They're not the only ones doing this kind of bribery either, just the only company that's coming under scrutiny right now, and this is just one insignificant little offshoot of just one Hydra-like company.
The corporate-political system is rotten and corrupt from top to bottom. I think we'd have to destroy the village to save it.