Atlanta Falcons fans wait outside to enter the Georgia Dome. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
ATLANTA -- In December 2011, the Atlanta Falcons played the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Georgia Dome. Among those attending the sold out game were five members of the state legislature.
Each of the five members -- Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), Rep. Jay Neal (R-LaFayette), Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell), Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) and Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta) got two free tickets, courtesy of the Georgia World Congress Center. Each pair of tickets was valued at $328, according to a lobbyist disclosure filed by the Congress Center's executive director Frank Poe.
Poe was active at the Capitol. Since the start of 2011, Poe disclosed giving lawmakers a total of 227 tickets to Georgia Dome events from Falcons games to Monster Jam to Wrestlemania. Including meals, Poe disclosed spending $24,615 on lawmakers.
Until a few days ago, Poe had declined interview requests about his ticket giveaways at the Capitol. Now he says they legitimately help showcase the Dome to those controlling its purse strings. "It's a way for us to expose to the members of the General Assembly what our business is all about," Poe said.
Q: Do the lawmakers ask you for tickets? Or do you say (to them) hey, I've got Wrestlemania tickets?
Poe: "Sometimes they'll come from an assembly member. Sometimes they're a request we make to an assembly member."
Q: Do the General Assembly members show gratitude to you for providing free tickets
A: "By saying thanks?"
Q: By saying thanks, or by saying "let me know if I can help you out."
A: "No, it's viewed as an opportunity to talk about the operation but no, there's not a quid pro quo....
"We are in the event business. So to have them there to attend an event is important because we want them to see (events) both within the facility, and also in the context that the economic impact of these events bring to the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia."
This month, Poe will continue to lobby lawmakers to allow the state hotel motel tax to help pay for a new stadium to replace the Dome.