The happiest place on earth may also be one of the busiest under the table. That's according to a two-part series in the LA Times this week that explores the long and sometimes complicated business relationship between Disneyland and the City of Anaheim. And it raises a big question: Is Disney paying its fair share?
Daniel Miller wrote about it for the LA Times. He spoke about it with Take Two's A Martinez.
In your piece, you detail some deals made between the city of Anaheim and Disney over the last two decades. And you say that Disney made a lot of them using a carrot-and-stick approach. How did some of these deals go down?
In general, Disney has — over the years — suggested that it could direct its investment dollars elsewhere if it isn't able to come to terms with Anaheim on a deal.
I can give you an example:
In 2015, Disneyland went to the city and sought renewal of a tax exemption that it had. Disneyland wanted an exemption from any potential entertainment tax for up to 45 years. In exchange for a 45-year exemption, Disney would invest $1.5 billion in its resort property.
The City Council voted to give the company that exemption and soon after that, Disney announced that it would build a Star Wars-themed area at Disneyland and that area will open in 2019.
In your reporting, you found that a lot of these deals were possible because of some very accommodating local politicians — some of whom may have received campaign funds from the company. What's Disney's role in the Anaheim political scene?
Disney is a power player in the Anaheim political scene. It backs candidates with direct contributions, and it contributes money to political action committees (PACs) that then spend money in support of certain candidates.
In the last election, Disney contributed about $1.22 million to PACs that were involved in the election.
Press the blue play button above to hear about what's behind the recent tension between Disney and Anaheim.
Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.