On Wednesday, the California Senate Finance Committee approved new tax legislation intended to specifically target billionaire Donald Sterling, embattled owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Times reports. The legislation would prohibit sport franchise owners from deducting fines levied by a sports league from their taxes as a business expense.
In the wake of his controversial private remarks leaked to the public, the NBA fined Donald Sterling $2.5 million and is considering steps to strip him of his franchise ownership. While the legislation would apply to all sports franchise owners, its true purpose is to target Sterling specifically.
The sponsors of the bill, Assemblymen Reginald Jones-Sawyer and Raul Bocengra, said they introduced the bill because they did not think state law should reward sports franchise owners “behaving badly.”
The legislation, however, is arguably a “bill of attainder,” assessing punishment without trial on a specific individual. Opposition to such measures was a catalyst for the American revolution and Article I of the Constitution prohibits such legislation. In Federalist Paper 44, James Madison described this type of legislation as “contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.”
Senate Finance Chair Lois Wolk voted for the legislation, even though “she said she is concerned about singling out one private entity for a change in the tax law that has implications for free-speech rights.”