With the Atlanta Falcons in their first Super Bowl in almost two decades, it’s tempting for Georgia politicians – with ready access to free tickets and a publicly-funded trip – to jet to Houston for the game.
It’s a particularly tough question for Gov. Nathan Deal, who earlier this month deciding against attending President Donald Trump’s inauguration by citing taxpayer expense of about $20,000 for the trip.
The governor is indeed making the trek to Houston on Sunday – but his office said he and his wife Sandra will be making a one-day trip that won’t rely on state tax dollars to foot their bill.
“Gov. Deal and the First Lady are proud of our Atlanta Falcons and will travel to Houston to show their support and cheer our home team on to victory,” said Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber Ryan. “They depart Sunday morning and will immediately return following the game. No state taxpayer dollars will be used to cover the costs.”
He’ll be joined by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at meetings with NFL executives and the Super Bowl Host Committee to talk about the city’s preparations to host the event in 2019.
The mayor, who hosted a raucous pep rally for the team at City Hall last week, said he wants to celebrate a team whose players have “worked their tails off all year long” and are on the verge of the first NFL championship in Atlanta history.
“I don’t know, but I’m going,” he said when asked whether taxpayers would pay his tab.
Top state legislators have long had access to thousands of dollars in tickets to watch football games, pro wrestling matches and monster truck races from luxury boxes at the Georgia Dome. But it’s more unusual for them to travel to away games. And with hotels jammed and nosebleed tickets starting at $2,000 a pop, that trip to Houston won’t come cheap.
Some politicians have found other ways to get to big events. When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker ventured to Atlanta this month with his family to watch his Green Bay Packers get dismantled by the Falcons, he had the Republican Governors Association pick up the expenses.
Other leading politicians are taking a pass at the game. Aides to Sens. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson sent word they wouldn’t attend the game. Ditto for Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr.
“I’ve got a refrigerator at home, a good TV,” Isakson said, “and just in case it’s not a great game I don’t want to have to walk out of the stadium sad.”
And it sounds like House Speaker David Ralston won’t be attending either. When his spokesman, Kaleb McMichen, was asked whether he the Blue Ridge Republican would be going to the championship, the response was swift.
“He’d love to. He was just waiting on the AJC to offer him a ticket.”
Good luck with that.