The Remarkable, Conflicted Ricketts Family (and Their Political Money)

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Joe Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, Ameritrade, etc., is the very wealthy man who wants to spend $10 million on ads portraying President Obama as a leftist radical influenced by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. But as families tend to be, the Ricketts (and their money) are not always on the same page. Here's a look at Joe Ricketts and his politically powerful kids.

Name: Joe Ricketts

Relationship: Patriarch

Lives in: Little Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Occupation: Owns TDAmeritrade,, High Plains Bison. With his four kids, he bought the Chicago Cubs in 2009. He's really rich.

Politics: Conservative

Political Money: Created the Taxpayers Against Earmarks in 2010, which spent $600,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The group changed the name to Ending Spending in 2011 and spent $250,000 backing Deb Fischer, the surprise winner of Tuesday's Nebraska Republican Senate primary. The group has also spent money backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his recall election and on ads in Indiana against Sen. Dick Lugar, who was defeated in the Republican primary earlier this month. Joe has given $500,000 to the anti-incumbent PAC, Campaign for Primary Accountability. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Ricketts wants to spend $10 million trying to defeat Obama with a plan titled, "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good." It would argue that Obama can't help but be influenced by the radical leftist politics of early mentors like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

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Update: Joe has repudiated the proposed Wright ad.

Name: Pete Ricketts

Relationship: Son

Lives in: Omaha

Occupation: Chief operating officer of Ameritrade, co-owner of the Cubs.

Politics: Conservative

Political Money: Pete ran for Senate in Nebraska in 2006 and poured so much money into the election he triggered the "millionaire's amendment," which allows the opponents of self-financed candidates to raise larger sums from donors. (The Supreme Court struck down that law two years later.) Pete spent $12 million of his own money on the race and won just 36 percent of the vote -- even though there were only 570,000 registered Republican voters in a state with a population of just 1.7 million. Pete was running against Sen. Ben Nelson (who's retiring this year) and attacked him for something that eventually became a major Tea Party theme: ending earmarks. Pete also expressed an aversion to mean political attack ads, ironic, given his dad's love of them. At a debate in September 2006, Rickets said he took down his ads attacking Nelson, but "You, on the other hand, continued to put out ads that were basically lies."

The loss didn't drive Pete from politics. In the last three election cycles, he's donated at least $60,700 to Republican causes. He runs a Nebraska think tank called the Platte Institute.

Name: Laura Ricketts

Relationship: Daughter 

Lives in: Chicago

Occupation: Worked at an environmental consulting firm and as a corporate lawyer. A LGBT activist, she's the first openly gay co-owner of a major sports team. She founded, though the website does not appear to be operating at the moment.

Politics: Laura is the family's liberal. She's an advocate for gay rights and serves on the board of directors Lambda Legal, a group that files lawsuits fighting discrimination. In explaining her background to the Chicago Reader in December, Laura detailed a familiar path to liberal politics. When she moved to Chicago from Omaha in 1985 to attend the University of Chicago, she felt "culture shock." She explained, "Once I settled down and got used to things like using public transportation, it didn't take long to love the city. I loved the diversity of it. I loved all the cultural options. The people here are sophisticated and intelligent, but also down to earth."

Political Money: According to the donor records from the Center for Responsive Politics, Ricketts started out small in donating political money, giving $250 to John Kerry in 2004 and $500 to the Democratic National Committee. Since then, she's started donating at much higher levels. In the last three election cycles, she's donated at least $293,406. (She did give $4,200 to her Republican brother Pete's Senate campaign in 2005.) This year, she's raised $456,631 for Obama so far. She introduced Obama at a Washington fundraiser in February, saying, the event was held "to show the president that the LGBT community stands strongly behind his reelection." She added, "I know the president stands with us."

Update: Laura issued a statement on the Wright ad, the Chicago Tribune reports: "All of my family members and I love this country and are passionate about doing what is right for the country.  That love of country was instilled in us by my father.  We have different political views on how to achieve what is best for the future of America, but we agree that each of us is entitled to our own views and our right to voice those views."

Name: Tom Ricketts

Relationship: Son

Lives in: Wilmette, Illinois

Occupation: Chairman of the Cubs, CEO of Incapital

Politics: Conservative

Political Money: He gave $49,450 to Republican causes in the last three election cycles, plus $15,000 to a baseball PAC.

Update: Tom issued a statement repudiating the Wright ad, saying, "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," the Chicago Tribune reports. "I shall have no further comment on this or any other election year political issue."

Name: Todd Rickets

Relationship: Son

Lives in: Chicago

Occupation: Co-owner of the Cubs

Politics: Conservative

Political Money: He's given $34,000 to Republican causes since 2008.


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.