Joe Ricketts, His Children, and Their Political Ties
Tom Ricketts gets a hug from his parents Joe and Marlene Ricketts after a press conference to announce the family's acquisition of the Chicago Cubs on Friday, October 30, 2009.
Good thing President Obama is a White Sox fan.
This morning’s New York Times carries a front-page story about Omaha billionaire and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, whose money bought his family the Cubs in 2009, allegedly funding a new advertising campaign aimed at defeating Obama.
The evidence is a proposal, leaked to the Times reporters, for a bold advertising campaign, to be funded to the tune of $10 million by Joe Ricketts’s Super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund. The proposal titled, “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good,” for ads on TV, print, and elsewhere, would have tied Obama to his controversial and estranged pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, coincidentally back in the headlines on the publication of a new Obama-bashing biography.
Within hours, Ricketts, 70, distanced himself from the proposal. A spokesman for his PAC said that Ricketts was always was about exposing Obama’s faults on the fiscal front, “not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally.”
Ricketts’ four children—three sons and one daughter—are all owners and members of the Cubs’ board of directors and involved, in varying degrees, with running the team. The first-born son, Pete, who lives in Omaha, is a member of the RNC from Nebraska and a failed Republican nominee in the 2006 senate race there. He seems most closely to share his father’s politics. The other sons, both Chicago-area residents, are Tom, Chairman of the Cubs, and Todd.
The only girl in the family, third-born Laura, a Chicagoan who is openly gay, is no conservative. She is one of Obama’s biggest bundlers—$500,000—and she and her partner are proponents of gay marriage. She has been a board member of the Lambda Legal gay rights group. A new mom, she has told the Windy City Times’s Tracy Baim that her family has been totally accepting of her sexuality. “For Laura,” Baim wrote, “coming out to her family as a Democrat may have been more difficult than coming out as a lesbian.”
Recently, I noticed that Joe Ricketts had played a key role in a Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Nebraska. His candidate, state senator Deb Fischer, a little known rancher, was running third until a last-minute surge—helped along by the endorsement of Sarah Palin and by $200,000 worth of TV ads (compliments of Joe Ricketts)—upset her male, more establishment opponents, a state attorney general and a state treasurer. So now it’s Fischer who will go up against former Nebraska Senator and Governor Democrat Bob Kerrey. The fact that the Nebraska seat, now held by retiring Democrat Ben Nelson, is one the GOP believes it can win on their way to taking over the Senate, coupled with Kerrey’s celebrity status, means this race will get national attention and shine the spotlight on the Ricketts patriarch. Joe, who is also the founder and CEO of DNAinfo.com, a new hyper-local news venture (launching soon in Chicago), remains focused on defeating Democrats, electing Republicans, slashing the deficit, and stopping the spending.
All four Ricketts children, who grew up in Omaha, have attended the University of Chicago—either its college and/or graduate school. The university, not the Cubs, is their first Chicago tie.
Photograph: Chicago Tribune