Politicians, state employees getting suite deals on your tax dol - FOX 32 News Chicago

Politicians, state employees getting suite deals on your tax dollars: EXCLUSIVE

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

As any fan knows, going to a major league baseball game isn't cheap. But for years, when some local politicians and state employees wanted to go to a Chicago White Sox game, it was as easy as picking up the phone. Not only did they get free access to a luxury suite, but all the food and drinks they wanted. And you paid for it all.

FOX Chicago obtained records detailing lavish parties thrown by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, the state agency that built and operates U.S. Cellular Field.

Under its contract with the White Sox, the agency gets permanent use of Skybox 424, a so-called "Diamond Suite" which includes 30 tickets. ISFA also receives several "Scout Seats" behind home plate for each game, as well as tickets in the "Gold Coast Tickets Club". Usually, the suite and the tickets are given to charitable organizations for fundraising or to give people who can't afford a trip to the ballpark the opportunity to enjoy a game.

But for years, ISFA board members, employees and clout-heavy politicians often took the seats at no charge and on each opening day, the invite list included a virtual who's who of Chicago politics. Among those who accepted free tickets: Mayor Richard M. Daley, former Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, City of Chicago Treasurer Stephanie Neely, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, former Senate President Emil Jones, Jr and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

On opening day in 2010, taxpayers spent more than $2,700 to buy food and alcohol for politicians and agency guests, including plates of shrimp cocktail, and bottles of high-end liquor like Grey Goose vodka and Dewar's White Label Scotch.

Fans, meanwhile, were digging into their own pockets for hot dogs and churros. "I think you should be able to entertain. But take an inch, don't take a foot. We don't have a foot to give right now," said Bill Brown, a White Sox fan.

It seems ISFA is cleaning up its act. Just this year, the board enacted new rules requiring members and employees to pay for their tickets, food, and drinks.

"I think that's the fair thing to do," said ISFA board member Jim Reynolds. "If you want to go to a game, you should pay for your tickets, and you should pay for your food,"

Although new board chairman Emil Jones, Jr. says he agrees with the changes, his name appears on the documents we obtained more than almost any other politician. Jones, Jr. says using tax dollars to purchase food and alcohol for politicians doesn't seem like a problem to him.

"Ain't nothing wrong with that. They're people too, like everybody else," Jones said.

ISFA board members must now pay $300 dollars for the use of the Diamond Suite—still a pretty good deal. They can use it up to four times a season.

Sources tell Fox Chicago that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's appointees to the board have been instructed not to take advantage of the perk. The only board members to use the box in 2012 were appointed by Governor Pat Quinn.

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