Rhode Island's successful bid to lure Curt Schilling's video game company away from Massachusetts drew flak today from gubernatorial candidates in both states, including one who questioned Schilling's bloody sock heroics in the 2004 Red Sox championship run.
Tim Cahill, the Massachusetts independent candidate, said he would not have done what Rhode Island did, while former Republican US senator Lincoln Chafee, an independent candidate in Rhode Island, criticized his state for taking a potentially expensive gamble on what he said was an unproven company.
In an interview with WPRO-AM, Chafee also said he didn't know if he trusted Schilling and incorrectly said some of Schilling's own teammates questioned whether he faked the bloody sock, the Associated Press reported.
Chafee's campaign issued a statement later saying he regretted his comments about the sock, because they distracted from his real issue – that Schilling's company, which Rhode Island is enticing away from Massachusetts with a $75 million loan guarantee, is in a risky business and Schilling has no track record.
"Senator Chafee regrets that what he intended as an off hand reference to published reports about the bloody sock has deflected attention from the crux of this issue," the campaign said in a statement.
The statement said that for Rhode Island to guarantee a large unsecured loan to "a single individual who does not have an established record in business" and who is competing in a high-risk industry is an "unacceptable gamble to ask the taxpayers of Rhode Island to take."
"Senator Chafee respects Curt Schilling's achievements as a professional athlete and his support of charitable causes. At the end of the day, however, his first concern is to protect the interest of Rhode Island taxpayers, on whose shoulders the burden of a 75 million dollar loan default would ultimately fall," the campaign said.
Cahill sounded a similar note, commenting at a news conference at the Statehouse in Boston that "I think I would not have done what Rhode Island did. I don't think as a matter of policy it's a good idea to give tax credits to individual companies betting on their success." He called the loan guarantee an "extraordinary amount of money."
"In a Cahill administration, I would not practice that. I think the governor has practiced that too much and I think the Legislature goes too far in giving tax credits to keep companies here instead of giving tax breaks across the board or lowering the cost of doing business," he said.
Cahill, the state treasurer, and Republican Charles Baker are trying to unseat Democratic Governor Deval Patrick in the November election.
Rick Gorka, a spokesman for Baker's campaign, said the departure of Schilling's company was an example of a "toxic business climate" created by the Democratic incumbent.
He said Baker was "looking at growing the economy for everybody. He's the only candidate with a plan to cut the corporate tax rate and institute reforms necessary to grow jobs in all sectors. It's unfortunate that Schilling's company, which was providing high-paying jobs, was forced to look elsewhere."
Kofi Jones, a spokeswoman for Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki, said the state had worked with Schilling's company and was "actively engaged with them in trying to gauge what their needs might be."
But, she said, "It was clear they were looking for a very large-sized incentive and we were not willing to get into a bidding war with Rhode Island."
"We as an administration have never offered such a large incentive to lure a company to Massachusetts from any of our neighboring states, and we never would," she said.
The Globe reported this morning that Schilling was moving the company, 38 Studios, after officials in Providence signed off on the loan guarantee.
"I've invested a significant amount of my life's earnings in 38 Studios," Schilling told the Globe, "and I will protect the loan guarantee that's been given by the state with the same passion and interest that I'm protecting my own investment in this company. Our paths are very much aligned."
Schilling electrified the Fenway Park faithful -- and remains a sports hero still to Sox fans -- with two appearances in the 2004 postseason wearing a bloody sock, covering a sutured ankle tendon. Schilling's pitching helped lead the Sox that year to a long-sought-for World Series victory. The sock has been donated to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Noah Bierman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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