More Citi Field Controversy

Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Ted Poe (R-Texas) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demanding that the $400 million naming rights deal between Citigroup and the New York Mets regarding Citi Field in the New York borough of Queens be called off.

“It’s just totally unacceptable that Citigroup should be able to spend $400 million in naming rights when they’re the recipients of a massive federal bailout,” Kucinich said in an interview, according to Newsday.

While Citigroup locked in a deal years ago to pay $400 million over the next 20 years in exchange for its name on the Mets’ new stadium, it also signed a multibillion-dollar emergency “backstop” deal with the U.S. government, according to ABC News.

Last year Citigroup said it planned to let 53,000 workers go as a result of billions in bad mortgage-related assets on its books. Citi also recently saw its stock price lose more than half its value.

Newsday noted that in recent months Citi received about $45 billion under the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Kucinich said the bailout gives Treasury officials authority to “protect the public’s interest.”

The letter from the congressmen requested that Geithner “dissolve” the contract.

“Absent this outcome, we feel strongly that you should compel Citigroup to return immediately all federal money received to date, as well as cancel all loan guarantees,” the letter stated.

Citi and seven other banks that received bailout funds may face questioning by Congress regarding how the financial institutions are spending the dough, according to Bloomberg. The paper noted that the eight banks received a total of $153.4 billion from the $700 billion U.S. bailout and are spending a combined $845 million in naming rights deals.

Kucinich said Feb. 3 he planned to hold hearings.

Although the Wall Street Journal reported Feb. 3 that Citigroup was looking into the possibility of backing out of the naming rights deal (in a report that quoted unnamed people familiar with the matter) Citigroup said the deal is still on.

“Citi signed a legally binding agreement with the New York Mets in 2006,” Citigroup said in a statement.

Steve Silverman, a spokesman for Citigroup in Manhattan, said that no TARP money will be used for Citi Field or “marketing purposes,” according to Newsday.

Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said, “Citi is fully committed to their contract. We’re fully committed to them. There’s no change in status whatsoever.”

Late last year two New York City Council members proposed naming the New York Mets’ new stadium Citi/Taxpayer Field instead of Citi Field as a thank you for taxpayers’ help in its federal bailout.