How the Chicago Cubs dominated political giving

It's Opening Day -- one of the Fix's favorite days of the year.  (It is also April Fool's Day, which is one of our least favorite days.)

The Chicago Cubs. AP photo

The Chicago Cubs. AP photo

With baseball on the brain -- the Fix stayed indoors to write this blog rather than go to the Washington Nationals' season opener -- we were fascinated with a study done by our friends at the Sunlight Foundation that broke down donations to political candidates and committees for each Major League team.

The whole study is worth reading -- do it here! -- but we were captivated by just how much money the Chicago Cubs organization donated to (mostly) conservative causes during the 2012 election.

The Cubs organization dropped $13.9 million on the campaign; that's roughly $4 million more than the other all of the donations made by the other 29 teams combined. (And, yes, we appreciate the irony of the Cubs dumping millions on conservative efforts in the hometown of the Democratic president and the city whose current mayor of former chief of staff to President Obama.)

The vast majority of the Cubs' spending came from owner Joe Ricketts, who dumped $12 million of his own money on Ending Spending, a super PAC that ran ads dedicated to, well, ending spending. (Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $1.1 million to Ending Spending as well.)

Most of the rest of the Ricketts family also gave to conservative causes including Restore Our Future, a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC. Interestingly, however, Joe Ricketts' daughter, Laura, gave $575,000 to liberal causes during the election including LPAC, a political organization she founded to support issues of import to lesbians.

The Ricketts family, who founded the online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, aren't just donors -- they occasionally dabble in running for office too. Pete Ricketts, Joe's son and Laura's brother, ran for the Senate in 2006 against Ben Nelson (D).  Ricketts got just 36 percent of the vote despite spending $12 million of his own money.

A few other observations on the Sunlight study:

* Washington is a political town but the Nationals aren't major donors, giving just $81,000 to candidates and committees including President Obama, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman's presidential campaign.

* Only four teams, other than the Cubs, gave $1 million or more to politics in 2012. They are the Baltimore Orioles ($1.8 million), the San Francisco Giants ($1.5 million), the Boston Red Sox ($1.3 million) and the Milwaukee Brewers ($1 million). The mighty-spending New York Yankees ($196 million payroll in 2013) were surprisingly tight-fisted in political donations, dropping just $43,000 including two donations to Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.

* Political giving in MLB tilts heavily to the ideological right. "More than 75 percent of contributions tied to teams went to conservative causes," writes Louis Serino, the author of the study. Serino notes that the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals and the Texas Rangers gave only to Republican and conservative causes.

Check out the full study. It's fascinating stuff.

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