Ultimate fighting tax just extortion
You have to wonder how state Rep. Jerry Chang would feel if he came up with a unique way to make millions of dollars in the real estate market and the state stepped in and said, "You're making too much money. Give us some."
I bring that up because, according to his online resume, Chang, when not legislatin' at the Legislature, is in real estate sales. He's not, as far as I know, someone who takes part in one of those no-rules ultimate fighting championships.
What he does know about the suddenly popular sport of extreme combat/mixed martial arts fighting is that it makes millions of dollars. And in exercising once again that strange sense of entitlement state bureaucrats feel to other people's money, Rep. Chang has introduced an odious bill shaking down the neonate fight industry in a way that would make a mobster blush.
His reasoning for strangling the baby while it is still in the crib is alarmingly candid: This new private enterprise is making a lot of money, so the state is entitled to a large cut of the action. Were this gambit not gussied up with the trappings of government officialdom, it would be called simply what it is: extortion.
Chang not only proposes that fight promoters pay huge licensing fees above and beyond the typical 4 percent excise tax and rent for use of public facilities, but he wants the state to essentially become a uninvited partner in the private enterprise, getting a percentage of all television, Internet, pay-per-view and DVD sales. I suspect the ghost of underworld boss Carlos Gambini is scratching his head, wondering why he never had the huevos to demand such action.
What's next? Will heavy-set government representatives wearing overcoats and fedoras appear in the locker rooms telling ultimate fighters, "We like you should take a fall in the second round on account of your leg might get broken if you get wise wit' us"?
Putting aside the irony of some of the toughest guys in the state getting shaken down by real estate salesmen and insurance agents masquerading as elected representatives, you have to wonder why one private business is allowed to be singled out for such punitive tax treatment. Would Rep. Chang feel so eager to go after fellow Realtors simply because they suddenly found a way to make millions of dollars through their own entrepreneurship? That's not a fair question. It supposes that Realtors could find a way to make money other than by forcing themselves into the middle of a private business transaction between a home buyer and a home seller.
Ultimate fighting promoters initially were not opposed to a bill that would regulate their new sport. That was a little disappointing because the whole attraction to this kind of brutal combat is that there are few rules. Once you appoint a commission to oversee extreme fighting, the fighting will become less extreme. Commissions of any stripe rarely make things more free-flowing and exciting.
But the fight organizers withdrew their support for the bill when Rep. Chang and his strong-arm men stepped in and demanded payoffs to the state. Imposing such onerous levies on an single industry are unprecedented. If the secret aim actually is to kill off a brutal sport that some find offensive, Rep. Chang's bill could do the trick.
Promoters say this choke-hold will suffocate the sport. If so, it would be just another private business in Hawaii forced to take a fall, mumbling to itself like Marlon Brando in "On the Waterfront," "I could have been a contender."
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org