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An update on Joe Ricketts pursuit of public funding for the Cubs

Nov 16, 2010, 4:34 PM EDT

Joe Ricketts

UPDATE:   Commenter johnvmoore alerts me to a report that the Ricketts have withdrawn their request to the Illinois legislature for the $200 million in Wrigley updates.  It’s not official or anything, but that’s the buzz.

Also, he points me to this comment from the Huffington Post, in which Brian Baker of Taxpayers Against Earmarks says that federal spending and state spending are two different things, and that his group only cares about the federal stuff.  I’m assuming that this won’t make any laid-off state workers or schoolchildren with inadequately funded schools in Illinois feel any better about Mr. Ricketts’ request in the event it is not withdrawn, but that’s his distinction and he’s sticking to it.  I am also assuming that this Brian Baker is the same guy who emailed me this morning (see below).  Surprised he couldn’t have given me a comment like that this morning. I guess, though, if he had the opportunity to pass off an uncomfortable question onto his counterpart with the Cubs, he was more than willing to do so. Still no word from her.

4:00 P.M.: So, after I wrote that stuff about how the Ricketts Family appears to only hate government spending when it doesn’t directly benefit them, I sent an email to to Joe Ricketts’ anti-earmark group, Taxpayers Against Earmarks, asking for comment. My specific inquiry was this: whether Taxpayers Against Earmarks believes that it is inconsistent for its founder —  who is campaigning against wasteful government spending — to be seeking more than a quarter of a billion dollars of public money for the construction and/or improvement of facilities for the for-profit enterprise that he owns, the Chicago Cubs.

A couple of hours later I received a pleasant email from a man named Brian, who told me that I should contact the spokesman for the Ricketts’ family who handles inquiries related to the Chicago Cubs. While I think this relates to Taxpayers Against Earmarks too, I work the sports beat, so I let it pass, thanked him and called the number he provided me.

The person at the Ricketts’ PR group gave me a second number for a specific spokesperson. I called her, but got voice mail. I left a message saying that I am seeking comment from the Ricketts family as to whether they believe it is inconsistent to campaign against wasteful government spending while asking for public monies to pay for the improvements to Wrigley Field and the construction of the Cubs’ new spring training complex in Mesa, Arizona. As a followup I asked, in the event they do not believe that this is inconsistent, why such is the case.

It’s been about four hours now, and I haven’t heard word back.  I’ll let you know if that changes.  And if it does not change, I will continue to ask until someone says something, even if it’s to tell me to buzz off.

Sorry if this sort of thing bothers you. I know it doesn’t deal with bats and balls, but I find government spending on baseball facilities to be a pretty fascinating topic, and I think it deserves more scrutiny than it gets.  If I’m simply off base here, and there is a better explanation than I’ve heard so far as to why the Cubs should have their business facilities underwritten by tax dollars, I want to hear it.  If there is no good explanation for it I think that should be illuminated as well.  And that’s especially the case when the recipients of the underwriting are such hawks when it comes to the expenditure of public dollars when it benefits those other than the Chicago Cubs.

  1. cwkash - Nov 16, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Give’em hell Craig!

  2. Jonny 5 - Nov 16, 2010 at 4:21 PM

    If you get an answer being nice i’ll be shocked. This is great, don’t back off because it’s not about bats and balls, it’s still about the country and the sport. Craig, you could really open a can of worms for this guy. Which is good. In my job I get this run around all the time. Threats work. Honestly they really do. Use the NBC name, you are now a Journalist, and tell them you’re about to let loose a sh!t storm in the media and you’d like to at least give them a chance at rebuttal before it hits the main stream. I’ll bet you they get back to you then.

  3. easports82 - Nov 16, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Well that’s just stupid hypocrisy. “We care about the federal government wasting money, not the state”. How about the fact that many states balance their budgets by getting federal money? Government waste is government waste.

  4. schlom - Nov 16, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    Well, isn’t there a difference between getting money that’s voted on by the local population (like the Mesa Spring Training Facility) and an earmark? I don’t think that it’s necessarily hypocritical to be against earmarks and also take money from the local or state government. Or are we claiming that government spending is government spending – voted on or slipped into a bill by a Congressman, there is no difference?

    • The Rabbit - Nov 17, 2010 at 10:56 AM

      Unless the local or State citizenry has a direct vote on a particular expenditure, there isn’t a difference…..and it’s disingenuous for organizations such as “Taxpayers Against Earmarks” to infer that there is.
      Once again, Craig has succinctly described the connection: Local budgets in most States rely on its share of State funding and States can live or die on Federal monies.
      While the media and some politicians love to rail against “earmarks” the fact is that there are some very convoluted formulas (by category) for State Aid. Some have existed for decades.
      Because backroom deals to tweak those formulas may have far exceeded the monies spent in earmarks, I’m immediately suspicious of the unstated agendas of some of these organizations and politicians whose mere existence are generally found to be funded by trust fund babies, the uber-rich, and corporations.
      Call me cynical, but for groups such as these, I assume that the reason that they focus on federal matters is that a state/local representative can be purchased at the Dollar Store and Congress is more like shopping at Neiman-Marcus.

      /Former Aide to a State Senator who was Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

  5. johnvmoore - Nov 16, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    Update the Cubs are saying that their plans have not changed.

  6. Reflex - Nov 16, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    This is truly fantastic. Keep up the good work Craig, and I’d like to see more of this.

  7. jh0088 - Nov 16, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    Hey Craig,

    Be careful here bro, you are starting to blur the line between average joe blogger and bona fide reporter. You’re calling and checking facts, asking for quotes and trying to get your story straight here. All that is well and good, but once the general public begins to expect honest “jounalistic integrity” from you just how are you going to tear into the Braves with an “opinion” not based on carefully researched and vetted facts?

    Quit while you’re ahead my friend. Stay a blogger and hold onto 16 as long as you can.

  8. crankyfrankie - Nov 16, 2010 at 7:41 PM

    The idea that any sports team should ask for and receive government subsidies has always struck me as wrong. Go get them Craig and godspeed.

  9. johnvmoore - Nov 16, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Hey Craig here is an interview Tom Ricketts did on Chicago Tonight this evening. He dodged the question about his father’s statement.

    Also, the old man did an OpEd on Politico re: earmarks:

  10. apbaguy - Nov 17, 2010 at 12:55 AM

    Craig-you’re going to have to move to CA if you keep this up. No taxpayer funded stadiums here anymore.

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