Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Will Joe Ricketts PAC Flap Hurt Cubs’ Efforts? (UPDATE)

Ok, so there’s a story making the rounds today about Ricketts family patriarch, Joe Ricketts, who has no meaningful involvement in the running of the Cubs, funding a PAC that is considering launching a particularly aggressive attack against President Obama. Feel free to read the piece, but keep in mind that nothing has happened yet. We don’t really know how this is going to play out, so I’m not really sure it’s time to rip a guy based on assumptions of what’s to come (unless you want to rip the guy for his politics, in general, which is your prerogative – but take it somewhere else).

I don’t think the story is really all that interesting as a “baseball” story, and, instead, is more about political campaigning, private dollar use in elections, and the nature of how folks get elected. I’m cynical, and nothing I read surprises me. (Avoid talking politics in the comments. I know it’s hard, given the nature of the story, but it’s just too damn divisive, and we don’t need it in a place where we’re all Cubs fans, mmkay?)

But where the story does take on a compelling “baseball”/”Cubs” angle is in the Cubs’ current efforts to secure public dollars in Chicago to help renovate Wrigley Field. As you know, the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel – who’s driving this bus – is President Obama’s former Chief of Staff. And, obviously, President Obama hails most recently from Chicago, and I’m sure those political ties don’t die in a few short years.

So, the obvious question is: if the Joe Ricketts’-funded PAC goes through with this attack, will it hurt the Cubs’ efforts to secure public funding in Chicago? Crain’s writer Greg Hinz is looking into that question, but doesn’t yet have an answer. Obviously you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist or watch ‘The Wire’ to know that it’s a conceivable problem.

It’s also a torturedly complex issue for a family with at least one member who’s a huge political supporter of President Obama (Laura Ricketts), and another member who undoubtedly wants all of this to stay completely off the pages and the TVs (Tom Ricketts). Does Joe care about the impact his actions might have on his kids and/or the Cubs? That’s not a rhetorical question, mind you, because I have no idea. We may never know.

Folks are entitled to do the political thing as they see fit, and I’m not going to dump on anyone for doing it. But this is a pretty sticky wicket. Can Tom Ricketts avoid commenting on this completely? I kind of hope he can.

I don’t really know where this goes from here, but as an unapologetic Cubs fan, I hope it blows over, and discussions about Wrigley Field continue unabated.

UPDATE: Wow, well that was fast. From a Joe Ricketts spokesman:

Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called “Ricketts Plan” to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning. Not only was this plan merely a proposal – one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors – but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take. Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally.

So, according to Ricketts, he saw the proposal, rejected it, and says it reflects an approach to politics that he doesn’t agree with. You can be suspicious, but that’s exactly what I said might happen, and why I preached caution. Some of you think I’m just an apologist, but I’m not: I’m cautious because I’ve seen so many of these two-sides-to-every-story situations before.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

84 responses to “Obsessive Wrigley Renovation Watch: Will Joe Ricketts PAC Flap Hurt Cubs’ Efforts? (UPDATE)”

  1. Steve Lopez

    Well looks like it is having some effect already. Got a retraction already


    1. Mike Foster

      Retraction? Ah, no, that’s a denial. A retraction has to come from the New York Times. When I see that, then I’ll be satisfied.

  2. al

    “…Joe Ricketts, who has no meaningful involvement in the running of the Cubs…”

    Joe Ricketts gave his kids the money to buy a toy. I’d say that is pretty significant.

    1. Drew7

      Passive investor? No way thats possible….

      1. al

        “Cubs owner Joe Ricketts sued for sexual harrassment”

        “Patricia Davis and Patricia Duncan filed a federal lawsuit against Joe Ricketts and the Opportunity Education Foundation, claiming Ricketts fired them from his Nebraska-based charity after they complained of sexual harrassment.

        Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, bought the Cubs in 2009.”


    2. CubFan Paul

      “Joe Ricketts gave his kids the money to buy a toy”

      Actually he didn’t

      1. al

        “Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade, bought the Cubs in 2009.”


  3. Edwin

    In my opinion everyone should have to watch The Wire.

    1. Ash

      I agree. Possibly a requirement for graduation from high school, as well as required for the rest of the people to maintain current degrees/diplomas.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        I would recommend The Wired, instead…..

  4. Chop

    Well if he is trying to end spending then maybe the public money they are seeking for renovations will be cut. :|

  5. guy

    Joe claims he’s donating gazillions of dollars to a candidate who will be fiscally responsible, but is trying to get the severely cash-strapped city of Chicago to give his family millions of dollars for the private business they own. I don’t think I’m being partisan or political (not taking sides here) to point out how massively hypocritical this is.

    Also, if this scuttles any deal for the Cubs to get public money, all the better. It’s a terrible idea no matter who the Ricketts support for president, and should never ever happen. And if the Ricketts can afford to spent gazillions of dollars on a PAC, they can afford to build their own damn Triangle Building.

    1. Patrick

      Half right, half wrong. :)

      Actually, I think you make a couple of good points on the merits, even though I disagree on the second half. But your comment actually supports the meme, which is, I think, that any public avowal of a political point of view from somebody in the family of investors that own the Cubs is going to open up questions about their finances and their ability to finance any renovation of Wrigley Field on their own, particularly when that avowal is “outspoken” against a President who’s former chief of staff is the MAYOR OF CHICAGO.

    2. bt

      That’s utter nonsense. I could spend the rest of the day listing private companies, not to mention every other professional sports franchise in Chicago, that has received public money in order to locate, stay or operate in Chicago. Call it a tax incentive if it makes you feel better, but the Cubs staying within the city limits of Chicago are as important, if not more important to Chicago than it is to the Cubs. They can still make money in Addison. If you think Chicago is cash strapped now, see how it looks 10 years from now with Wrigleyville a ghost town.

    3. Mrp

      Then Wrigley needs to lose it’s landmark status and the Cubs can have night games whenever they damn well please. It cuts both ways. Chicago, especially Wrigleyville, benefits from the Cubs. The team is forced to charge an amusement tax on tickets. Where the hell does that money go and who is it benefiting from it? Why wouldn’t the Cubs be somewhat entitled to use that for improvements to the park? Like I have said in other posts, move the Cubs out of Chicago for all I care, I’ll still be a fan.

  6. Jim

    Thanks for writing this piece. I had read about the plan earlier and it made me question my loyalty to the Cubs. Not because of his political leanings, everyone has the right to an opinion and to express it positively, but for the race-baiting nature of the plan. Good to know that the Cubs profits are not supporting mud throwing for either side.

    1. Fester30

      I don’t think you have to worry about profits from the Cubs going to anything like that, anyway. Maybe I’m not remembering correctly, but I could have sworn I saw it somewhere that Tom Ricketts himself said all profits would go back into the ballclub.

      1. hansman1982

        He has said that numerous times but some people don’t believe him. Seems to me that a certain segment of the fan base has disliked the Ricketts from the word go and is not letting go.

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          This is almost certainly true: but is it ever not the case?

  7. FromFenwayPahk

    Getting this spin (back) into the universe didn’t cost Joe Ricketts or the “Ending Spending Action Fund” a dime. Electronic Apophasis.

  8. ibcnu2222 (John)

    Yahoo said the Joe Ricketts is the owner of the Cubs. I thought the he was just the father of the owner of the Cubs.

    1. Mrp

      Well if Yahoo said it, obviously it is true. Although they may have more credibility then the NY Times at this point.


    Joe Rickett may not run the Cubs but he is a Rickett and the Cubs are own by the family, If Joe Rickett is funding a Super Pac and if it is discovered that he is funding millions upon millions of dollars into that Pac then the State of Illinois should not help the Cubs with any tax payer revenue. . I feel MR Rickett has a choice, fund a Super Pac or Generate those dollars to fund Wrigley Field BUT DO NOT STEAL MONEY FROM ILLINOIS TAXPAYERS IF THE rICKETTS CAN PUT HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN A SUPER PAC

    1. Mrp

      You might want to take a look at your caps lock, it might be broken. Also, name is Ricketts. That is all.

  10. Justin Jabs

    BOOO. Keep that filth called “politics” out of my baseball enjoyment!!


    Justin cries today.

    1. Justin Jabs

      As a clarification, that’s not a “boo” towards Brett for bringing it up (it is Cubs-related, after all).

    2. Mrp

      Yeah no kidding.

  11. Jon
    1. sperls13

      “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi quipped, “I hope they’re as successful with this campaign as the Cubs are in baseball.””

      Ouch, Pelosi. Regardless of your opinion on any of this crap, that is just plain MEAN. :)

      1. Deer

        A source close to the mayor confirms that that remark was indeed Freudian. Mr. Emanuel is “livid” with the family’s “blatant hypocrisy,” that source says. The Ricketts have tried to contact him, my source adds, but the mayor “does not want to talk with them today, tomorrow or anytime soon.”

        Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregHinz.

        1. bt

          Well, that’s no good.

  12. Cheryl

    He’s already disavowed the plan, but will that make headlines? No!

    1. al

      Google ricketts plan and see for yourself.

  13. Ralph

    Turn Wrigley into a homeless shelter and build a domed stadium somewhere else.

    1. Cubmig

      I love the Cubs……..but……Maybe the Cubs owner and chairman will explore moving to Texas. They can then be in the Friendly [Business] CONFINE of Gov. Perry.

  14. beerhelps

    Just saying thx Brett for follow up on this … hard to keep up when politics can change by the hour though.

  15. cubfanincardinalland

    This explains why the city has played hard to get with the Ricketts.
    Old man Joe is a classic modern day capitalist. When I get a tax break, it is socialism. Us little people are not paying our fair share. But when Joe wants tax breaks, they are called incentives. What is sad is the guy got lucky and hit the lottery in life, and instead of doing something meaningful with the money and helping some people in the world that need it, he wastes it on hate mongering baloney. Quite sad really.

    1. Crockett

      Blah. Go away.

      1. Bric

        I don’t follow politics and so don’t really know or care about any of this. My political party is the Cubs. But I’ve never seen your name here before and get a little itchy when I see you telling other people to go away because you look like a troll. Two suggestions- keep your views relevent to the Cubs and remember all views are welcome here. Or go troll some place else. Only guy who has the right to refuse access is Brett, and I think he’s only ever done that once.

  16. Crockett

    Laura’s unnecessary and alienating comments certainly are going to lead me to spend less money on the Cubs. Absolutely. As an independent moderate who thinks Obama has fiscally destroyed America, I think it was pretty rash of her to make such comments that could alienate some fans.

    1. beerhelps

      what comments did Laura make? By the way, so much for leaving politics out of this discussion. Strong work there bud.

      edit: saw her comments, not very inflammatory imo

      1. bt

        I think (hope) he was being snarky.

        1. Crockett

          No snark. 100% reality. I don’t think the public face of a public institution (yes, it is public) should be promoting one candidate over another, period. Laura’s comments were out of line and unnecessary.

          1. bt

            That’s utterly and completely absurd. Why should the face of a public institution stop having an opinion? They should be able to voice their opinion (and be subject to whatever consequences they bring) just like anyone else.

            No one is (or rather should be)faulting Joe Rickets for not liking Obama. They are faulting him for not liking handouts while simultaneously asking for one.

  17. necusfan

    As long as they aren’t giving money to the Cardinals, I couldn’t care less. Sure hope this doesn’t hurt the Cubs in any way though, that would suck.

  18. sven-erik312

    It’s election tactics like this that I don’t miss even one little bit over here…

  19. Dante Hicks

    So here’s how I see it, but I want to keep politics to a minimum. Thanks Brett for being balanced. The proposal, whoever ordered it–is sickening. It says something that McCain didn’t use it and Romney says he won’t. Today is the anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court Decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, KS (go look it up if you don’t know). Shameful how some never learn. However, I have a lot of other thoughts but I will save those. Joe and his kid in Nebraska (who ran for office and lost) are hard core GOP.

    A couple of things:

    As I recall, Joe Ricketts didn’t even want to the buy the team and didn’t understand the reason it might be a valuable asset or profit center (ironic of course). Tom had to convince him. And he has little role in the team if any.

    Laura is a big time Democratic donor. Todd, often ridiculed here, is unknown and Tom? Who knows. We need to see that before people, as I have heard here on Facebook page, never go to another game. Wow.

    My brother, who is in finance, once went to a meeting with Joe. As this is a family blog, I’ll leave out his words, but were basically not a nice guy.

    So, the NY Times with a liberal ax to grind? Shocking!

    Give Nancy Pelosi credit for saying something like: I hope that this is as successful as the Cubs. Funny.

    Crazy stuff that shouldn’t happen. But, not because of the Cubs, but because of the hateful people still living and breathing here.

  20. Fester30

    I understand politics is a very emotional thing for many people. I just hope all the people getting emotional about the politics surrounding this situation are only doing so because of how passionate they are about baseball. Would be a shame for anybody to not be able to separate their love for a baseball team from their ideas in the political arena. I’ll make my most political statement that I’ll make on any of these blogs or forums: Whatever happens with any of this surrounding political stuff, I hope all of it somehow results in a World Series!

  21. jim

    I have been posting for a year that it is daddy joe making the big moves. 900 million $ is all daddy joe. Tommy is piker. Cudnt even trade options on cboe.

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