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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.

COMMENTS

Well, this is Chicago...and as mad as Rahm may be now, and despite what the public feels about subsidizing a Wrigley renovation, a deal will get done, Rickett's will get their money from the city/state, and Rahm will once again have a press conference touting all the jobs that the renovation will create.

So with apologies to the movie "Chinatown,"

Forget it Neil, it's Chicago.

Posted by Dan M on May 18, 2012 08:57 AM

Well, this is Chicago...and as mad as Rahm may be now, and despite what the public feels about subsidizing a Wrigley renovation, a deal will get done, Rickett's will get their money from the city/state, and Rahm will once again have a press conference touting all the jobs that the renovation will create.

So with apologies to the movie "Chinatown,"

Forget it Neil, it's Chicago.

Posted by Dan M on May 18, 2012 08:57 AM

Rich guys are only against handouts when they're not getting them ...

Posted by kingsnake on May 18, 2012 09:30 AM

Hey, if it causes the Cubs some trouble, I'm all for it.

Gotta also say, fine work by the New York Times. That's the type of strong editor--

Wait. What section did that run in?

Posted by Ben Miller on May 18, 2012 01:58 PM

Rahm the job creator has cut more than 2,000 city jobs while he's been in the mayor's office. Mostly from departments "delivering front-line services to taxpaying residents" according to Mick Dumke of the Chicago Reader.

Rahm's got $300 million burnin a hole for Ricketts though.

Posted by Chris on May 18, 2012 03:12 PM

Maybe father Joe isn't involved with the son's baseball team, but I haven't read anything where he explicitly requests his son to stop asking for public handouts for his baseball park.

I wish a journalist would ask him about that, being that the name of his super-PAC is "Ending Spending".

/facepalm

Posted by Justin on May 18, 2012 03:15 PM

Craig Calcaterra tried a couple of years back - he just didn't get very far:

hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/11/16/an-update-on-joe-ricketts-pursuit-of-public-funding-for-the-cubs/

Posted by Neil deMause on May 18, 2012 03:47 PM

Rickett's SuperPac donations are illegal. TD Ameritrade is about 40% owned by TD, the Toronto Dominion Bank, which is based in the TD Tower in the financial district in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Foreign contributions are illegal. The SCOTUS did nothing to change that. RICKETT´┐ŻS SUPERPAC DONATIONS ARE ILLEGAL AND SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED BY THE AUTHORITIES.

Did the Justices of the Supreme Court(supposedly of the United States of America) consider the funding of campaigns by foreign governments and foreign companies when they ruled on Citizens United? I remember President Obama mentioning the threat of foreign interests in our elections in his State of the Union address.

Posted by paul keogh on May 18, 2012 04:25 PM

If Rickett's spent his own money and not TD Ameritrade's, which appears to be the case here, then it would be legal, regardless if Rickett's wealth was generated by an investment in a foreign firm.

Posted by Jmauro on May 19, 2012 05:52 PM

I look for Chicago to tell the Cubs they will spend no money at all to help them and further tell them "If You do not like it, Screw you, Move somewhere else"

Posted by Jack Kraft on May 20, 2012 10:28 AM

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