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May 18, 2012
Joe Ricketts' anti-Obama campaign raises Wrigley reno questions
As you may have heard, the New York Times reported yesterday that Joe Ricketts, the founder and owner of TD Ameritrade and the news site DNAinfo, was considering launching a $10 million attack ad campaign on President Obama, playing up his ties with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and introducing the "Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good." While Ricketts has long been a staunch conservative and anti-government-spending zealot, this was considered a glimpse into his plans to become a more major player in the new Super PAC world of rich-guy-sponsored campaign ads.
And why on earth are we talking about that here? Because Ricketts is also part of the same Ricketts family that owns the Chicago Cubs (his son Tom is team CEO) — the same Cubs that are asking the city of Chicago for as much as $300 milllion in subsidies for renovating Wrigley Field. And the same city of Chicago whose mayor is Rahm Emanuel. The same Rahm Emanuel who used to be chief of staff for Barack Obama, and who is possibly best known for once mailing a dead fish to a pollster who had displeased him.
Speculation on what all this means for the Wrigley renovation plan is already fast and furious: Emanuel called the proposed ad campaign "insulting to the country" and promised to have more to say later on whether it will affect the Wrigley talks; Business Week reports that Emanuel is "livid" and "refusing to return the [Ricketts] family's phone calls."
The Ricketts family, meanwhile, has gone into full damage-control mode, with Joe insisting that he never actually intended to run the ads, and \Tom adding that "I repudiate any return to racially divisive issues in this year's presidential campaign or in any setting — like my father has." Forbes, meanwhile, notes that Tom's sister Laura (another Cubs co-owner) is a major Obama fundraiser.
In the end, it's hard to see how being mad at the team owner's dad is going to significantly affect Emanuel's decision on whether to fund a Wrigley renovation, especially if he's not balking at a $300 million price tag after vowing to be a "steward for the taxpayers." As the Chicago Sun-Times noted:
City Hall sources said they still expect a Wrigley deal to get done because it's a job creator and because Emanuel is all about "putting points on the board," as the mayor likes to put it. The controversy could slow down the team's accelerated construction timetable and empower the mayor to drive a harder bargain, however.
Also, Joe Ricketts might want to watch his mailbox for any packages that are long and stinky.