Politics

Play ball! The MLB’s top 2012 political contributors

Play ball! The MLB's top 2012 political contributors

ALEXANDRIA — Major League Baseball’s 2013 season may be under way, but the Chicago Cubs have already claimed one championship: biggest political spender.

Chicago’s North side baseball franchise dropped $13.9 million in political contributions during the 2012 election season, the bulk of which came from owner Joe Ricketts.

The Cubs’ political push is highlighted in the Sunlight Foundation’s report on contributions in Major League Baseball, which found that franchises dropped more than $24 million during the 2012 election cycle.

“Seeing that very wealthy individuals owned these teams, and knowing that some of them are very politically active, it’s not very surprising to see (the spending,)” said Liz Bartolomeo, media director for the Sunlight Foundation.

Republicans outpaced Democrats by more than 3-to-1 in MLB-based contributions, with the GOP netting $18.4 million to the Democrats $4.2 million. More than half of the report’s catalog of spending came from the Cubs.

The ideological spectrum of baseball’s campaign spending shifted from franchise to franchise, sometimes running the gamut from Democrat to GOP within the clubhouse. Some teams, like the Cubs and Texas Rangers, have ownerships that are decidedly conservative. Others, like Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, remain large Democratic contributors, and then teams run by a collective of owners — like the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants — are equally split on political giving.

“Every baseball team is a company,” Bartolomeo said. “As we have found, companies and their employees and their executives do give to political campaigns. So this just shows that America’s national pastime maybe is political giving.”

Ricketts donated more than $12 million to his Ending Spending Action Fund, a Super PAC by the Cubs owner founded to limit government spending.

Other donations went to candidates such as Illinois Democrat Lisa Madigan, Minnesota Republican Michele Bachman and Democrat Al Franken, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Virginia attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli.

Here’s a list of donations made by Watchdog state:

Colorado: The Colorado Rockies dropped $246,089 in total, mostly backing Republicans such as Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and George Allen. Other officials donated to Democrats such as Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Tennessee congressman Jim Cooper.

Florida: The Miami Marlins gave a total 0f $178,550, the bulk of which came from owner Jeffrey Loria to Romney. Loria gave Romney $78,300, while team president David Samson and broadcaster Glenn Geffner backed Barack Obama with a combined $40,250.

The Tampa Bay Rays had only $20,250, split between Romney, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rhode Island state senators Roger Picard and Marc Cote and Florida congressman Gus Bilirakis.

Illinois: In the American League, the Chicago White Sox backed Obama with $60,000 of the more than $260,000 donated. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf also donated to Democratic senators Dick Durbin and Joe Manchin and Republicans such as Josh Mandel and Adam Kinzinger.

Maryland: The Baltimore Orioles gave the second highest political contribution total with $1.83 million in donations. The bulk of it came from Orioles owner Angelos and went to a number of Democrats stretching from North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Nelson.

Former Baltimore pitcher Jeremy Guthrie broke the Democratic stronghold with a $5,000 contribution to Romney from him and his wife, Jenny.

Minnesota: The Twins donated $644,016, largely to Democratic candidates with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine receiving $16,000 and the Obama Victory Fund earning more than $494,000.

Missouri: The Royals spent $57,902 on campaigns last year, contributing to candidates like Republican Arkansas congressmen Steve Womack and Thomas Cotton and former state Rep. Tim Summers. The Royals also contributed to Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, both Republicans.

Kansas City player Tim Melville contributed $402 to Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.

St. Louis Cardinals officials contributed $121,637 to the campaigns of both Obama and Romney, but also to Missouri Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon, Ohio Republican congressman Brad Wenstrup and Mandel.

Ohio: The Cincinnati Reds dropped $360,565 on the 2012 elections, with $151,925 in contributions going the failed campaigns of Romney, Allen and former Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. Apart from Ohio Supreme Court justice Yvette McGee Brown, who received a $200 donation, the Reds backed the GOP exclusively.

The Cleveland Indians were among the lowest contributors with only $22,272 on the books. Indians president Mark Shapiro contributed $7,500 to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign, while Romney out-raised Obama $7,500 to $272. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell netted $2,500 from Indians CEO Paul Dolan.

Pennsylvania: The Philadelphia Phillies spent $246,700 in political contributions in 2012, split between Republicans like Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Romney and Allen and Democrats like Sen. Bob Casey.

The Pittsburgh Pirates only put $28,000 into the 2012 campaign, $7,500 going to Romney and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Texas: The Houston Astros spent most of their $55,050 in political contributions on Obama and fellow Democrat state Sen. John Whitmire. Team owner Crane made his biggest contribution in February 2012, with a $35,800 gift to the Obama Victory Fund.

The Texas Rangers threw in $117,350 in political contributions, all going to Republican candidates. Principal team owner Nolan Ryan and COO Rick George gave a combined $2,500 to Romney, while Sen. Ted Cruz got $5,000 from co-owner Ray Davis.

Washington, D.C.: The Nationals spent $81,375 on the campaign season. But team officials backed an interesting slate of candidates, including Democrats like Obama, Virginia congressman Gerry Connolly and U.S. senators Tim Kaine and Steny Hoyer, but also Republicans like Virginia congressman Eric Cantor and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Brewers spent $1.03 million on campaigns in 2012, backing largely Republicans like Romney, Walker, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and Hatch, among others.

Nelson, Gillibrand and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin were among 19 Democratic donations made by Brewers staff.

Free agent Pitcher Casey Fossum continued a player trend of backing Ron Paul by kicking in a $500 contribution.

Other franchises with multiple owners like the San Francisco Giants and Boston Red Sox dropped big amounts on both sides of the aisle. The Giants spent $1.56 million that went to both the Romney and Obama campaigns, while the Red Sox spent $1.36 million divided between candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her opponent, Scott Brown.

For more info on the Sunlight Foundation’s, click here.

Carten Cordell is a reporter for Watchdog.org, a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Contact him at carten@watchdogvirginia.org.

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