Yesterday’s statement from Texas state comptroller Susan Combs to the effect that no state funds will be paid out in advance of the 2012 US GP would appear to contradict a letter she sent to Bernie Ecclestone in May 2010.
In that letter – sent just before the Austin race was confirmed and clearly key to clinching the deal – she promised that the $25m sanction fee for the first race would be paid by July 31 2011.
The letter entered the public record earlier this year when a group of Texan taxpayers challenged the expenditure on the race, claiming that it contravened several elements of the guidelines for the Major Events Trust Fund.
The 13-page legal document, which I acquired in June, contains some fascinating details, but if you have not seen it yet the real gem is the letter. Addressed to Ecclestone, it reads as follows:
May 10 2010
Formula One World Championship Limited
Attn: Mr Ecclestone
In response to the requirements for the race promotion contract for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Texas, I hereby certify the following:
With the understanding that the first full Formula 1 Grand Prix will be held in Texas in 2012, full funding for the entire sanction for 2012 will be paid to Formula One World Championship Limited (‘FOWC’) no later than July 31st, 2011.
In subsequent years, two through ten, of the race promotion contract, ie 2013 through 2021, we will be sending $25m to FOWC by the end of July 31st of each year preceding the actual race.
We look forward with great enthusiasm to this event and a successful mutually beneficial relationship for many years to come.
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
However, not only did that payment not come through by July 31 – which presumably played a big part in creating the current crisis – Combs now says that no payment can be made until after the event has taken place.
Yesterday she said in a statement: “Let me state clearly: We have not paid out any money for the Formula 1 event. The only dollars that can be spent on the United States Grand Prix are tax revenues attributable to the successful running of a race. The state of Texas will not be paying any funds in advance of the event. Further, as is the case with all METF events, each application will be reviewed and analyzed for its likely economic impact and only after the race occurs would any funds be disbursed.
“If an METF application is submitted, it will be thoroughly vetted and economic impact data scrutinized based on the actual circumstances for that event. Ultimately, I am responsible for protecting the interests of Texas taxpayers, first and foremost. I will not allow taxpayer dollars to be placed at risk. My position on that has not changed.”
In fact it seems that her position has changed since she wrote to Bernie.