Cubs owners also active in politics, though loyalties split
ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 28, 2016 08:13 PM
Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts holds up trophy as president for baseball operations Theo Epstein watches after Game 6 of the National League baseball championship series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Chicago. The Cubs won 5-0 to win the series and advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
SARA BURNETT, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — The World Series is hardly the only historic contest preoccupying the owners of the Chicago Cubs this fall.
The wealthy Ricketts family — Joe and Marlene, and their adult children Pete, Tom, Todd and Laura — also are big players in the political arena, hosting high-dollar fundraisers and donating millions to influence the presidential election. But while everyone in the family rallies around the beloved ball team, when it comes to political causes and candidates ... well, not so much.
Most of the Ricketts are Republicans who support GOP nominee Donald Trump, though during the primary Joe and Marlene spent millions to stop the New York businessman, prompting Trump to lash out at the family on Twitter. Son Pete is the conservative governor of Nebraska, and four years ago the family was pulled into a controversy involving President Barack Obama.
Laura Ricketts, meanwhile, is a top Democratic donor who held a high-dollar fundraiser for Hillary Clinton this summer and was a superdelegate who supported her at the Democratic National Convention. After it became known a super PAC founded by her father planned to spend millions to help Trump, she showed up at Wrigley Field sporting a hat with the Clinton campaign logo.
The Ricketts family, originally from Omaha, bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million. While Joe Ricketts made the family fortune as chairman of TD Ameritrade, son Tom Ricketts — who mostly avoids politics — serves as Cubs chairman. His siblings are co-owners and board members.
The family deferred comment to a spokesman, who emphasized that many families could relate to the Ricketts' divided political loyalties, even those who share their sports passions.
"The Ricketts family, like the families of many Cubs fans, have diverse political views," spokesman Dennis Culloton said. "But they are very close and they love each other and that's been the case before, during and long after their World Series run and election seasons."
Joe Ricketts is a GOP mega-donor who founded the super PAC Future 45. The group and a related nonprofit entity are scheduled to spend about $15 million on anti-Clinton and pro-Trump advertisements by Election Day, according Federal Election Commission reports. The groups have so far concentrated on the battleground state of Florida, according to Kantar Media's political ad tracker.
Roughly half of the spending has come through the 45 Committee, a nonprofit group that does not have to disclose its donors to the public.
FEC documents show Future 45 is getting a big assist from Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Through the end of September, he and his wife, Miriam, contributed $10 million to the group.
Early on, however, Marlene and Joe Ricketts' investments in the presidential race went mostly to their preferred candidate, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who flamed out early in the GOP primary.
The couple was so concerned about Trump winning the primary that they pumped $5.5 million into an effort to stop him in the first few months of this year, FEC records show. When Marlene Ricketts' first contribution made headlines, Trump warned on Twitter that the family "better be careful, they have a lot to hide!"
Tom Ricketts later told reporters the family isn't hiding anything, adding: "It's a little surreal when Donald Trump threatens your mom."
Shortly after the effort to stop Trump failed, Brian Baker, who directs the family's political activities, said Joe and Marlene Ricketts always intended to support the GOP nominee — even Trump.
Pete Ricketts in Nebraska endorsed Trump shortly after the other candidates for the GOP nomination left the race.
Todd Ricketts, who like Tom and Laura lives in suburban Chicago, raised money for Walker's presidential campaign, but also has gotten behind Trump, hosting a fundraiser for him alongside former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka.
The family's politics have caused at least one major rift in Chicago, a deeply Democratic city.
During the 2012 election, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reportedly was infuriated by reports that Joe Ricketts was considering a $10 million campaign against Obama that would refer to the racially incendiary sermons delivered by the minister at a church Obama once attended. Joe Ricketts said he had nothing to do with the proposal, which was dropped, but it became one of many bumps in the Cubs' efforts to get approval for major ballpark renovations.
In a 2013 Chicago magazine profile, Tom Ricketts made clear the Ricketts prefer to be recognized for the Cubs, not politics.
"To be a part of a family that brings a World Series champion to these fans would be one of the greatest legacies you could imagine," he said.
Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.
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