The patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs is caught up in the middle of a political advertising controversy.
According to a New York Times investigation published on Thursday, Joe Ricketts is considering bankrolling a controversial ad that links President Barack Obama to inflammatory remarks made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The report said Ricketts’ Ending Spending Action Fund, a conservative super PAC, was considering a proposal for a $10 million TV ad campaign highlighting Wright’s sermons.
A statement from Brian Baker, president of the Ending Spending Action Fund, on behalf of Ricketts, said the New York Times got it wrong. The statement said the plan was “merely a proposal” and that Ricketts rejects that approach to politics.
“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,” the statement said.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also jumped into the conversation Thursday. An email from one of his aides said the mayor was “livid” upon recieving the news.
“He is also livid with their blatant hypocrisy,” the aide said, in an email. “The Ricketts have tried to contact the Mayor but he’s said that he does not want to talk with them today, tomorrow or anytime soon.”
Ricketts and his wife established a trust fund that their children used in 2009 to purchase the Chicago Cubs. In an interview with WBEZ, Dennis Culloton, spokesman for the Ricketts family said the Cubs aren’t involved in politics. He said the Ricketts children handle the franchise, and Joe Ricketts is not an owner.
“As far as the Chicago cubs are concerned, there’s no political involvement. Their only goal is to win a world series,” Culloton said.
Culloton admitted that goal is a full time job on its own.
All four Ricketts children, Laura, Todd, Pete and Tom are on the board of directors for the ball club. Tom Ricketts is the chairman of the Cubs. He and his sister also released statements, in an effort to distance themselves, and the Cubs, from the controversy.
“As chairman of the Chicago Cubs, I repudiate any return to racially divisive issues in this year’s presidential campaign or in any setting—like my father has,” Tom’s statement said. It included that he would have “no further comment on this or any other election year political issue.”
Not all members of the Ricketts family are conservative. In Laura’s statement, she included that she’s a strong supporter of President Obama, adding that his reelection is what “is best for America.”
“[Obama] has been leading us to an economic recovery; served with great honor as commander-in-chief during a time of war; been a strong proponent on issues important to women and just last week he exhibited great courage in endorsing the freedom to marry for Gay and Lesbian Americans,” she said.