A group funded by the majority owner of Austin Bold FC (USL) is coming under fire, as paid canvassers were caught giving misinformation about the purpose of an Austin MLS stadium petition.
The Bold is an upstart Division II USL (soon to be USL Championship) squad backed by Bobby Epstein, the chairman of Circuit of the Americas. That club is preparing to begin play next the season as the city negotiates with current Columbus Crew SC investor-operator Anthony Precourt about a project that calls for a new MLS stadium to open at the city-owned McKalla Place in 2021 (rendering shown above).
Epstein had recently donated money to the political action committee IndyAustin, which is seeking to force a vote on the MLS proposal, only to withdraw his donation after the group used the controversial Pepe the Frog in a video criticizing Austin mayor Steve Adler. However, Epstein has since funded a PAC–Fair Play Austin–that is circulating a petition to force a vote on the Austin MLS stadium deal.
Multiple secret videos have circulated in which paid canvassers for the PAC provide misleading information about the intention of the petition. One of those was shot by Marc Littlefield, a lobbyist and political consultant who helped push for the MLS deal, and his tape is one of two that has been circulated. An official for the PAC acknowledged that there is a “training issue” when it comes to the canvassers, and said it is working to resolve those issues. More from the Austin American-Statesman:
As Littlefield approaches the canvasser, he tells the man that he loves soccer. Littlefield tells the man that he thought the city had already approved a soccer stadium. The canvasser replies that a deal failed to pass twice, and now a petition was needed to get the matter on the ballot.
“It didn’t pass,” he says. “So that’s why we are trying to get it on the ballot.”
Littlefield’s video is one of two that are being circulated by some in favor of the city’s stadium deal with Precourt Sports Ventures, which plans to bring an MLS franchise to Austin. The other video shows a female canvasser. She tells an unidentified woman during an interaction that the petition is related to the soccer deal, but that it would not undo the McKalla Place deal….
“It is a training issue,” [general counsel for Fair Play Austin Nikelle] Meade said “They need to answer truthfully or say, ‘I don’t know.’ … It is a somewhat complicated issue so we are making sure everyone is better informed.”
Back in August, the Austin City Council approved the term sheet for a McKalla Place land lease, leading to the current negotiations. The Bold, meanwhile, recently broke ground on a 5,000-seat stadium at the Circuit of Americas that will open in 2019.
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