Thursday, March 15, 2007

Avarice that Consumes All Things

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy -- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

As if the average Redskins fan needed any new evidence that Dan Snyder has a coarse and toxic indifference to the world around him, the nanny story has resurfaced and logged a new chapter. You may recall back in May 2006 the Washington Post (those Reliable Source hussies no less) reported that Dan and Tanya Snyder's former nanny was suing for 60 thousand dollars in back wages and 180 thousand dollars in damages. Although the details were somewhat sketchy, the case involved overnights at Snyder Xanadu and 6000 unpaid overtime hours.

Now, the jury in the Montgomery County case has handed the nanny a victory, sort of, granting her nearly 45 thousand dollars in back pay. No award for damages was mentioned. It's a nothing amount to the boy billionaire and for those of us living on Earth it is an interesting insight into the world of the super-rich and super-not giving a shit.

For instance, we learned that Snyder Xanadu is staffed by at least seven domestic employees and that the litigious nanny was not even the day nanny! Two nannies for three kids by two healthy parents of child-rearing age. These must be busy people.

But wait, the nanny claims that Tanya would stay in bed until midday sometimes if she had no 'appointments,' a claim Tanya disputes because she was just so "swamped overseeing construction on their new home" (op. cit.) that the Snyders could not afford to fire the woman that they distrusted but trusted with their children.

This all took place in 2003 and 2004, when the Snyders were adding a ballroom onto their house and something called a geothermal heating system into the back yard. And while Dan was illegally cutting down 130 mature trees along the Potomac to improve his view. Although he was ultimately found in an Interior Department report (PDF) to have done nothing 'improper,' and the matter was dumped on the Interior underling that capitulated to Dan's demands, the Interior report on the matter

does suggest that he had access to top Park Service officials that other citizens might not have had
and that the matter was improperly held from public debate.

If you will recall, Dan first tried to buy permission to cut down the view-impeding trees but when rebuffed turned to a lavish luncheon for Interior officials at Snyder Xanadu, a later meeting with Interior officals at the mansion and to stalking Interior officials at Redskins games, possibly even granting them access to the owner's box. (op. cit.) When all was said and done, Dan, a Republican donor, got the clearance he needed from the Executive branch agency, cut the trees despite being told twice he could not and then miraculously the blame was dropped on a bureaucrat who has conveniently moved on.

Other Washington Post coverage of the tree episode: Marc Fisher (great comments on this piece), Tim Craig.

Pressuring government officials and making secret deals just happens to remind me of the Redskins Road episode in Prince George's County. In 2003 and part of 2004, PG County forbade pedestrians from walking down Redskins Road to games, nominally over safety concerns and economic concerns as well. The county you see was worried that fans would park for free at Landover Mall, a violation of mall policy, and then get hit walking to the stadium and thus be unable to pay the fine for parking illegally. That blocking pedestrian access happened to created a need for the 5800 25 dollar parking spots leased by the team and connected to the stadium by dreadful shuttle service may be a coincidence.

The guy in this 2004 piece is right about one thing: I've been to dozens of Eagles games at Eagles Stadium with lifetime Eagles fan, season ticket holder and Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery, and we have paid for parking exactly once. Jeff Lurie makes it easy and cheap and in so doing doesn't make fans feel like they are being raped through the wallet.

That pedestrian ban was overturned once, reinstated (both op. cit.) then overturned again. Now slackers with no parking pass can pay 15 dollars to park a quarter mile from a Beltway interchange. I never fully understood what Dan Snyder got out of the arrangement. Check that, we know what he got, he got the ca$h from parking, and the county got some kickback of some sort. Dan always tries to make it worthwhile to those in power as he seeks to set his own rules.

But I digress because we were talking about the abusing the help episode, not the flaunting his privilege and pressuring government officials to give him his way on cutting down trees on federal land to improve the view from his 10 million dollar estate, or the colluding with county officials to line his pockets with still more cash out of the pockets of Redskins fans episodes.

So as the nanny migrated from weekends only to nights and weekends, including frequent 24-hour shifts, her billing hours also increased. It is amusing to me that despite the nanny's stated night shift of 6pm to 5:30am (op. cit.), the Snyders never claimed that she was supposed to work 12 hour shifts and they she should not be paid for sleeping (op. cit.). But I am guessing that if one of the little monsters wakes up crying, falls out of bed or is sick that when the kid wakes up, the nanny is back on duty? Just because the kids are asleep does not mean the nanny is off duty but to expect to pay someone part time wage for full time work or that she should not sleep overnight when her charges are sleeping is not just wrong, it's dysfunctionally indifferent.

Despite his alleged business acumen, Dan never saw fit over 20 months to check on what he was paying the nanny and when he figured out she was making about 94 thousand dollars on an annual basis caring for his children so he did not have to, he actually said
You know, you make more than the Redskins Park people I pay
So this tells me a couple of things:

1. He doesn't pay Redskins staffers enough.

2. He is clearly and openly disrespectful of child care professionals. That he would turn around and realize he's given 162 thousand dollars to a...nanny? just makes him boil. He immediately told her to accept a salary rather than bill hours in what amounted to a 20 thousand dollar paycut. She refused and quit.

I paid a nanny to work in my household, caring for my kids during the day from the time they were six months until 18 months. She was worth a hell of a lot more than the 33 thousand dollars we could afford to pay her and if we could have tripled her salary we would have done it and she would still be working for us. And to put a context around Dan's attitude toward child care and where he gets it, the neighborhood ice cream shop in Alexandria pays 13 dollars an hour. The preschool my kids attend pays 10 dollars an hour for a substitute teacher, 12 dollars an hour for a teacher's assistant and 14 dollars an hour for a full teacher. These people, all women, care for the children of 40 families for three hours a day and they make less than an ice cream scooper and they do it because they love kids and because they can afford to. It's not a full time job and even if it were you can't live in Alexandria on 20 thousand a year. We treat the staff at the school with the utmost respect, get to know them as individuals, praise their efforts and listen to their evaluation of our children. I doubt Dan feels the same way about his kids' teachers and caregivers but then again he's rich enough not to have to.


I'm not going to go all BAGnewsNotes here, but look again at that image at the top. It's Dan and Tanya Snyder from 2003. What do you see? As news consumers know, photographic images can be used to editorial effect in tandem with a story, and the composition of the photograph itself can also make a statement. I am stunned at this Jonathan Newton photograph. In the center I see Dan and Tanya, Dan's body language says 'unavailable,' 'closed.' Tanya is next to him, sitting passive, accepting, plastic and with the stare of a Barbie doll, maybe appropriate for a former fashion model used to being looked at and not betraying of her inner thoughts.

Dan and Tanya hold hands, and their hands are joined over a Redskins logo, symbolizing the thing that makes Dan rich, and...desirable? Dan and Tanya met on a blind date (op. cit.) in 1993 when he was 28 and already a millionaire, set up by mutual friends. A year later they were married. How much love is there in this marriage and how much is imitating, play-acting, remember darling we hold hands in public.

Where are they? Redskins Park film room watching the draft? Some other venue? Around them is an open space. There is no one visible in the row with them, but there are programs on the arm rests, so those seats are intended for people. Are they avoiding the Snyders? Are the seats saved for guests arriving even more fashionably late than the highest wattage in the room, the Snyders themselves? In the foreround at left is a man with his back to the Snyders. Are they shunned despite fame and fortune? Then there are familiar faces in the room, so this is a Redskins event. Joe Bugel and Vinny Cerrato are visible in the next row at left, but they are not engaged in the image. Despite being the center of the image, the action is happening elsewhere, no one but the photographer is paying attention to the Snyders and they seem immobile, motionless, 'off' if they are not receiving the attention. There is iconography in this image.


For the bonus material related to this post, click here.

Dan & Tanya Snyder: Jonathan Newton / Washington Post from here.
Snyder Xanadu, Montgomery County: Katharine Frey / Washington Post from here.


Daves Boatworks


She looks like one of the Stepford Wives. Nice blog btw.