The Clout of the Chicago Cubs

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

As a die-hard White Sox fan (sorry Professor Turley!), it was nice to see the White Sox beat the Cubs in the first two games of the 3 game series at Wrigley Field.  Now, I am not writing this article to rub Cub fan’s noses in it, but rather to discuss one of the Cub’s owners Super Pac political activities and the Cubs ownership that is looking for corporate welfare to help renovate venerable Wrigley Field.  I understand that many ball parks are subsidized by the voters, including beautiful Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago.  However, there is a big difference in what the Cubs organization wants to do and how they are going about it.

In case you didn’t know it, the Ricketts’ family is the majority owner of the Cubs and the patriarch of that family is Joe Ricketts.  Mr. Ricketts is a billionaire and he founded TD Ameritrade and his children run the Cubs organization. Mr. Joe Ricketts was recently in the headlines because he was planning on running anti-Obama ads through his political organization that could be considered racially offensive.

“A group of high-profile Republican strategists is working with a conservative billionaire on a proposal to mount one of the most provocative campaigns of the “super PAC” era and attack President Obama in ways that Republicans have so far shied away from.  Timed to upend the Democratic National Convention in September, the plan would “do exactly what John McCain would not let us do,” the strategists wrote.  The plan, which is awaiting approval, calls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.  “The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”  The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a ‘ “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.” ‘  New York Times

Needless to say, once the secret plan was disclosed, Mr. Ricketts has been busy trying to downplay and distance himself from the disgusting program.  Even his children, some of who give to progressive causes, tried to pull their father out of the political mud that he created.  I have no problem with Mr. Ricketts saying and doing whatever he wants with his Billions because due to the Citizens United decision, he has the right to spew whatever statements he wants at any candidate. I do have a problem with him complaining about Obama’s alleged over-spending on one hand, while sticking out his other hand and demanding a taxpayer subsidy for planned renovations to Wrigley Field.

The Chicago Cub organization is looking to renovate Wrigley Field and they want the City and State to pony up about $150 million in bonds and they are also asking for 50% of any increase in amusement tax revenues.

“And half would come from $150 million or so in bonds to be retired with increased revenue from the existing city and Cook County amusement taxes on ticket sales. Specifically, debt service would get the first 6 percent in growth above a base level of around $15 million a year now.  But it’s a little more complicated than that.  The team also wants a 50 percent cut of any increase in amusement tax revenue growth above 6 percent. And unlike the bonds, which would be retired in 30 or 35 years, that would be forever.”  Crains Chicago Business

Is it just me or is Corporate Welfare seem to be a bigger problem than the welfare programs for ordinary citizens?  Why should any city or county or State be extorted into paying for half of a private corporation’s spending plans?  Should the city of Chicago or the State of Illinois buy into this bad deal just to keep some billionaire happy?  What would the City or the State get out of this plan?  More jobs, increased revenues from taxes?  Maybe, but I have heard that song and dance before. Why shouldn’t the ballclub be required to pay its own way? I understand the possible use of government bonds that have an end date, but to demand a share of the tax revenues with no end date is outrageous.

It is interesting that organizations and wealthy individuals that decry government regulations and taxes seem to have no problem in demanding that the government treat them differently than any other corporation or individual.  At the very least, it is not a good business decision to ask the City for your help and then thumb your nose at the former boss of the Mayor of that very same city.  What do you think?  By the way… Go Sox!

29 thoughts on “The Clout of the Chicago Cubs”

  1. Brilliant. Republican’s at their finest. I do so love crony capitalism. I just wish they would own up to their policy of “We’re against big government intervention, unless it intervenes on our behalf.” Of course, I can’t say Dems. are much better. Those green energy investments have paid off wonderfully, haven’t they? It’s turned this economy around by providing just so many green energy jobs. That, of course, gooes to the propaganda that government can really create stable jobs in the first place (it can’t, not many, anyway.) And the way they tend to earmark just as greedily as any Republican. Of course, it’s all the same thing. The D. v. R. thing is just a false diaelectic to give an illusion of choice to the American people. The problem with a dialectic is that there is often a great many more choices to make than just two. I wish people would wake up and realize that’s all of it, D. and R., is just so much fecal matter.

  2. Last I heard on this, Mr. Ricketts plan so angered Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, that he won’t take Ricketts’ calls. Hahaha.

  3. Joe Ricketts is the founder of TD Ameritrade. He’s really rich, and he really dislikes Barack Obama. He’s working with longtime GOP operative Fred Davis on a way to spend $10 million venting that anti-Obama rage with a series of racial attacks on Obama. This prompts Ben Smith to ask “do people think Jeremiah Wright attacks are going to work at this point?”

    I think that’s too much thinking like a political reporter rather than like a business reporter. Lots of political spending is basically a business proposition. Businesspeople make donations to support the re-election of politicians who are friendly to their interests and to broadly maintain privileged access to legislators who they may call on for specific favors. But the kind of spending Ricketts is contemplating here is simply too large to be driven by a narrow calculation of profit and loss. It only makes sense for Ricketts to cut that check if the campaign it underwrites has a lot of expressive value for Ricketts personally. And while I don’t know any objective observers who think a focus on Jeremiah Wright is damaging to the president (it’s hard to sow doubts about someone who’s been in office for four years and every day the campaign isn’t focused on mass unemployment is a win for an incumbent running amidst mass unemployment), it’s obvious that a lot of hard-core Republicans do think this way. It’s psychologically comforting to many conservatives to believe that Obama won in 2008 not because of the extremely unpopularity of the GOP, but because the media failed to “vet the prez” and expose his links to black radicalism.

    If you’re Fred Davis or any other consultant eager to help himself to a slice of Ricketts’ $10 million investment, coming up with a cost-effective plan for damaging Obama’s re-election campaign is pointless. What you want to do is come up with a plan that appeals to Ricketts’ sensibilities and makes him want to spend the money.

    A lot of people seem to condescendingly believe that only yahoos are into anti-Obama conspiracy theories, but the reality is that this stuff appeals primarily to relatively high-information voters including many very rich and sophisticated businessmen. No less an ideological funder than David Koch thinks it’s important to note that Obama’s “father was a hard-core economic socialist in Kenya,” which is supposed to somehow be relevant to the views of a son who never knew him. These rich donor types have no real skin in the game, and the operatives’ main task isn’t to win; it’s to persuade them to spend. That means emphasizing whatever kind of attacks most resonate personally with the donors. If Joe Ricketts, personally, is really into talking about Jeremiah Wright, then the best way to profit off Ricketts’ personal hatred of Obama is to outline a Wright-focused campaign strategy. Article by Matthew Iglesias for Slate.

  4. If I had money in Rickett’s Ameritrade I would close that account,

  5. bettykath,
    you are right that the public might not be the winners in this “deal” proposed by the Ricketts.

  6. I wonder who would be buying those interest-bearing, tax-free bonds.

    Does this sound like something that Ricketts would consider:

    I won’t spend my money to upgrade my own stadium, nor will I borrow money to do it (heavens, they’ll charge me interest!). But I’ll help you with the loan you need to take out to build my stadium by buying those interest-bearing, tax-free bonds you have to sell.

    Disgusting corporate welfare that benefits only those who already have an obscene amount of money.

  7. raff,

    Sometimes speaking the truth is a revolutionary act of courage. :mrgreen:

  8. rafflaw:

    Your courage is bearding JT in his own den with Sox lore has not passed without notice. Let ’em buy their own ivy.

  9. Elaine,
    It is funny how those dollars seem to be plentiful when a coporation or wealthy individual comes calling.

  10. rafflaw,

    “Is it just me or is Corporate Welfare seem to be a bigger problem than the welfare programs for ordinary citizens?”

    It’s a much, much bigger problem! We don’t have money for schools, teachers, repairing roads and infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, USPS, etc.–but tax payer dollars can often be found for corporate welfare.

  11. Raff,

    Also yes, I now say go ChiSox. I well remember 1959, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Early Wynn, Bob Shaw, Bubba Phillips, Earl Torgeson and even
    Jim McAnany.

  12. Raff,

    Great post. I must admit to having been “Cub-phillic” since watching Ernie Banks in the 50’s. Since this information on Ricketts came out this week I am now officially “Cub-phobic”. As you state, it is interesting that this paragon of free enterprise is seeking public money to improve his product. As far as Billionaire sports team owners getting “public assistance” for their enterprise, I am totally against it. There have been numerous economic studies that show that large economic benefits do not accrue to cities aiding sports teams, in fact sometimes the reverse is true.

Comments are closed.