Joe Ricketts has had next to nothing to do with the Cubs since the Ricketts won the right to become the sole bidders on the team way back in 2009. He's the money guy. That's it. He has said as much publicly. He doesn't give a damn about the Cubs or baseball. He funded the purchase of the team because his son, Tom, sold him on the fact that the Cubs were a money-machine that sold every ticket "win or lose."
Since the sale was completed, Joe has sat in Nebraska (or wherever) and not done a damn thing with the Cubs. He leaves it all to Tom, Laura, and Todd (mostly Tom).
It is Tom that has been trying to figure out how to wrestle away a couple hundred million dollars from the city and/or state to fund his Wrigley renovations project. All the while, Joe has lurked back in the shadows doing what he does, which is, apparently, supporting Tea Party candidates and policies. He started his Taxpayers Against Earmarks PAC in 2010. It became the Ending Spending Super PAC in 2011. None of this was secret, but nobody cared other than a few people who linked or tweeted to links showing the hilarious irony that Joe Ricketts despised government earmarks while his son would seemingly cut off his own arm to get one. We laughed. It was funny. And nobody gave two shits.
So none of this is news. What IS news, and what has Rahm Emanuel so pissed off that he reportedly was not taking the Rickett's telephone calls is that part of the Super PAC's actions involved the proposal for an advertisement that makes the negative campaigning in the Republican Primaries look like Romper Room. It has everything. It basically wants to highlight every racially bigoted thing that they feel they can exploit to make people fear that Jeremiah Wright has programmed Obama to somehow declare war on all white people and we'll all be huddled around in caves feeding on each other's flesh by 2014, or something.
In the words of the plan itself:
Show the world how Barack Obama's opinions of America and the world were formed. And, why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president's formative years among left wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.
High-minded political debate it is not.
Now everybody is in damage control mode. Joe said he doesn't approve of the plan, he didn't write the plan, the plan is only one of many, many, many plans and how the hell is he supposed to keep track of every one of a billion plans to defeat the President that get slipped under his back door without his knowing about it in the middle of the night? Huh? How? Is that the Pope over there behind you? *runs away*
Tom went into Forrest Gump mode as he basically repeated his father's statement about not approving of divisive politics and then, essentially, "That's all I have to say about that." But then he did have more to say about that to the Sun-Times:
“I’m not really involved in what my father does on the political side, and he’s not involved in anything we do as a team. We talked. I didn’t yell. He was already in the process of putting out a statement that made it clear he rejected the proposal,” he said.
“He knows it’s very important for us to maintain the image of the Cubs at the highest level. He understands that would complicate some of our efforts on the funding side. But we didn’t spend time talking about it. It was more like, `These are the cards we’ve been dealt. Let’s address the issue.’”
Laura, a noted Obama supporter, mentioned how her whole family loves America and they love each other even though they all have different political beliefs. Then they shoved her out in front of the cameras during the Kerry Wood Extravaganza over the weekend, which I'm sure was not a coincidence.
But the story isn't going away anytime soon and it seems most people who look at the story can't seem to separate Tom from Joe.
This is the Cubs' biggest problem at the moment. The sweeping at the hands of the White Sox and Koyie Hill suddenly becoming the starting catcher again are infinitesimally small glitches when compared to the PR hits the Cubs are taking thanks to Joe Ricketts' Super PAC. And maybe they shouldn't be completely separated. After all, it is Joe's money. He will profit from the Cubs getting the renovation done through the use of tax breaks, there is no getting around it. But he is not the one making the plans and scheming to get the tax money. That is Tom, and it has been difficult to know where Tom is on the political spectrum since he doesn't talk much about politics. So what can we learn from his history of political donations?
As of January 2012, Tom has donated just under $80,000 and all of it has gone to the Republicans or Republicanish organizations. $50,000 of it went to John McCain in the last Presidential election. Here's where the rest went:
- James Dold (R) – U.S. Congressman – Moderate, pro-choice, anti-gay marriage (but pro-gay civil unions) – $2,400 in 2010
- Joel Barry Pollak (R) – 2010 Republican nominee for U.S. House of Representatives – Endorsed by Tea Party – $500 in 2010
- Michael O. Johanns (R) – U.S. Senator – Promotes "fiscally responsible policies," wants to reform earmark process, against legislation based on "personal sexual preference" – $5,000 in 2007
- Norm Coleman (R) – Former U.S. Senator – Fiscal centrist, pro-life, opposes gay marriage – $2,100 in 2006
- Mark Kennedy (R) – Former U.S. Congressman – Pro-life, regularly co-sponsored bills with Democrats – $4,200 in 2005
- Teresa Hall Bartels (R) – Dropped out of 2006 Republican Primary for U.S. Congress 8th District – Moderate – $1,000 in 2005
- Pete Ricketts (R) – His brother and U.S. Senate candidate – fiscally conservative, anti-gay marriage, pro-life – $4,200 in 2005
- Jack Ryan (R) – 2004 Republican nominee for Senate – pro tax cuts, tort reform, and sex clubs (apparently) – $250 in 2004
- John Kasich (R) – Former U.S. Congressman and current Ohio Governor – Unsuccessful campaign for President in 2000, fiscal conservative – $250 in 1999
So, Tom is apparently a Republican. Their views range from centrist to the far right. Also, it would seem a common theme amongst the candidates he has supported over the years included support of fiscal responsibility, which one would think would include opposition to tax breaks for billionaire families who own baseball teams. It also shows someone who can't be THAT involved in politics. The amount of money he has donated in the thirteen years since being one of John Kasich's only donors is pitifully small for a man of his wealth. Hell, one could argue that the only reason he gave to any of these people is because they pinned him against a wall at a party or something and he got out his checkbook to make them go away, much as we do when we flip a quarter or two into a homeless person's cup when they stop us on the street. "Here you go Jack, try not to spend that whole $250 in one sex club, OK?"
So is Tom a hypocrite because he's donated money to people who mostly oppose the very thing he is looking for? Is he a hypocrite for being related to the man that is spending millions to stop wasteful spending? Is that inherently hypocritical? Is he a hypocrite for spending money on candidates that oppose his sister's lifestyle? I really don't know. Politics is weird and complicated and if we only supported those who agreed with us on every single issue, politicians wouldn't be nearly as rich as they are. We don't know what Tom's hot button issues are, so it's impossible to say for sure that he's a hypocrite. Not that it will stop the media looking for the biggest bang for the buck on this story. I'm looking at you, Steve Rosenbloom.
Tom's biggest mistake seems to be that he doesn't spread the wealth amongst the folks in the Democratic party that can help him in his quest. Check out Jerry Reinsdorf's contributions over the years. He's donated to both President Bushes, President Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden, Rick Santorum, and Joe Liebermann, among others on the national level. That's quite a spectrum. Locally, he's donated to Bobby Rush, Carol Mosely Braun, and Jesse Jackson Jr. on one side and Mark Kirk, Peter Fitzgerald, and Dennis Hastert on the other. It is clear that Jerry Reinsdorf has one core belief: know where to grease the wheels if you want to get anything done. Does that make Jerry Reinsdorf a hypocrite? It would if he cared about anything other than making his own life as a baseball owner easier. That is probably all Tom should care about if he wants to get anything done.
I've half-jokingly stated from the start that the Cubs need to start greasing the palms of local politicians, but I had assumed that they probably already were to some degree. Where's the donations to Rahm Emanuel? Where are the donations to Tom Tunney? What about Pat Quinn? Michael Madigan? Why should these people help the Cubs and Tom Ricketts if he's not going to help them? You know how this Joe Ricketts thing could have gone away almost instantly? If Tom could have pointed to a few donations to Democrats that shows he is, indeed, separate from his father. Who is giving Tom advice over there, anyway? Julian Green is either terrible at his new job, or they don't listen to him.
I think it was MB who said in the comments that a few donations to Rahm will clear all of this up and upon looking at it, I have to say I agree. I don't know what amount will do it, but the gesture will help and soon Rahm will forget all about how angry he is and start working to keep the Cubs in Chicago and making a boatload of cash for the city (and the Ricketts). As long as Tom is spreading the wealth around, nobody who matters will care what Joe does with his money. So if you do have a political agenda, Tom, put it on hold until you get what you want. Otherwise, you're going to have to move the team to Nebraska or somewhere where your dad has bought all the local politicians already.