The Magic Of Money

The NBA’s Orlando Magic has disclosed that it paid a radio talk show host and frequent tax critic $200,000 to not oppose plans for a new arena that is part of a $1 billion downtown redevelopment.

In addition to the new arena, which would replace TD Waterhouse Centre as the team’s home court, the plans (announced September 29th) call for a renovation of the Citrus Bowl and construction of a new performing arts center.

Doug Guetzloe, a political consultant who also hosts a local radio show billed as “The Voice of the People,” received $100,000 from the team this year and an additional $100,000 for his support of a similar push for a new Orlando stadium in 2001.

The payments were handled through the Magic’s law firm, Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, which has been tied to hundreds of thousands in payments to Guetzloe for unspecified purposes. The team says it is reevaluating its relationship with one of the firm’s lawyers.

Magic officials have apparently had a change of heart about their attempt to woo the apparently powerful local gadfly – or at least prevent him from criticizing the plan, which is funded in part by an increase in hotel bed taxes.

“We were told that there was an offer by those in the minority that oppose the three community venues to hire him if we did not,” Magic COO Alex Martins said in a statement. “He has been publicly involved in many major projects in central Florida for more than a decade. In hindsight, it was an error in judgment.”

The Magic weren’t the only ones paying Guetzloe. A Kissimmee, Fla., resort reportedly gave him $87,000 when it pursued public money to expand a convention center, and the local expressway authority has paid him $107,500 to evaluate opposition to toll increases despite his heavy criticism of the agency.

The payments to Guetzloe have come to light following an investigation by the state attorney’s office. He faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly violating campaign disclosure laws relating to an attack ad on a suburban mayoral candidate.

The Magic arena is projected to cost $480 million, with the team responsible for overruns and some $200 million in costs.