Politics Rattle Wrigley Deal

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is having a dustup with the owner of the Windy City’s famed ballpark, Wrigley Field, because of some attack ads targeting President Barack Obama.

Emanuel, former chief of staff for the Obama White House, is showing all signs that he will be backing away from supporting a public-private deal that would fund the renovation of the stadium. Joe Ricketts, whose family trust was used to buy the home of the Chicago Cubs, is the staunchly conservative billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade.

But the political differences between him and Emanuel are not the problem – it’s a recent consideration by Ricketts to help fund the anti-Obama ad campaign, even though he ultimately rejected it.

The public-private deal was already unpopular in the state. Gov. Pat Quinn and lawmakers are trying to agree upon major tax cuts to human services and public worker pension costs, according to the Chicago Tribune. Helping billionaires was not a priority. Meanwhile, Emanuel was trying to focus attention on a NATO summit that attended Chicago the first weekend of July, and the revelation of Ricketts’ flirtation with the attack ads – which revisit the 2008 attack about Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright – was a distraction.

“I don’t think that’s fitting in a campaign of any nature,” Emanuel, who was reportedly “furious,” told the Tribune. “You can have disagreements without being disagreeable.

“America is too great a country with too great a future with the content they are talking about,” he added. “And it’s insulting to the president; it’s insulting to the country.”

Then there’s the perceived hypocrisy of Ricketts – who has publicly criticized big government yet is amenable to taxpayer support, and tax breaks, for his family’s famous facility.
Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of the neo-conservative Commentary webzine, was no supporter.
“The sorry truth,” Tobin told the paper, “is that almost all of the millionaires and billionaires who own sports teams in this country are ardent capitalists when it comes to taxing their incomes but devout socialists when it comes to getting government to subsidize their business.”

The Ricketts family is trying to “control the fallout from a now-disavowed plan,” the Trib reported, and Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts released a statement.

“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,” Ricketts said. “I shall have no further comment on this or any other election year political issue. My full-time focus is on making the Chicago Cubs a World Series champion preserving Wrigley Field and making the Chicago Cubs a great corporate citizen.”