Soccer

Miami-Dade ethics panel clears David Beckham in lobbyist inquiry

 

Should David Beckham have registered as a lobbyist before meeting with county officials on bringing a soccer stadium to Miami-Dade? An ethics panel says no.

dhanks@MiamiHerald.com

An ethics inquiry into David Beckham’s stadium campaign has cleared the soccer star of violating local lobbying rules.

Miami-Dade’s ethics division closed its three-month inquiry into whether Beckham should have registered as a lobbyist before pursuing a soccer deal. The report issued Wednesday found no violations, but said Beckham needs to register if he wants to meet with county officials over the stadium deal for a Major League Soccer team.

“[N]ow that the MLS stadium idea has gained momentum only those individuals who are properly registered should be meeting with County officials to influence or encourage” the soccer plan, the report stated. If Beckham “is involved in discussions intended to influence County officials, he would need to register as a lobbyist.”

The inquiry centered around the question of whether Beckham, one of the world’s most recognizable celebrities, needed to register as a lobbyist before talking to local officials about why they should back his well-known desire for a soccer stadium in Miami-Dade.

Beckham and his investors joined Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and other county officials for a tour last June of potential soccer sites. As noted in the report, Gimenez joined Beckham for a private November dinner at the home of Marcelo Claure, a wealthy wireless-communications magnate and Beckham’s backer in the soccer venture. The Nov. 12 dinner occurred six days after three lawyers from the Akerman firm registered to lobby for Beckham.

Wednesday’s report notes that Gimenez and others characterized their initial meetings as trying to persuade Beckham to bring soccer to Miami. The “observation was made that the County was essentially lobbying Mr. Beckham in an effort to get the possible economic stimulation an MLS stadium might bring,’’ the report said.

While the report said Beckham’s stadium tour qualified as the sort of “meet and greet” functions exempted from the registration rules, its conclusion section did not pass judgment on the private dinner. Joseph Centorino, director of the county’s ethics commission, said staff concluded Beckham did not violate any rules at the dinner since he was not lobbying Gimenez.

“Mere presence at a meeting doesn’t constitute lobbying in and of itself,’’ Centorino said.

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