The New York Times had tongues wagging in Washington on Thursday morning with its revelation that a conservative billionaire is behind a top secret (well, ’til now) campaign to discredit Obama by race-baiting — a method that, for obvious reasons, the GOP and Romney’s team tend to avoid.
You can read the entire attack for yourself but, in a nutshell, the so-called ‘Ricketts Plan’ — leaked to the Times in its sordid, juicy 54-page glory — attempts to align Obama with his controversial ex-spiritual adviser Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The proposal includes an aim to paint the President as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln“, preferably by hiring an “extremely literate conservative African-American” as a mouthpiece.
The ‘Ricketts’ in the plan’s name is Joe, founder of online discount brokerage TD Ameritrade and patriarch of the billionaire family who own the Chicago Cubs. They paid $845 million for a 95% interest in the team, Wrigley Field and 20% of Comcast SportsNet Chicago in 2009.
Forbes’ SportsMoney team put the Cubs at #4 on our 2012 list of most valuable MLB franchises, with both its revenues and overall value increasing yearly. Joe’s son Tom Ricketts manages the team.
The New York Times referred to Joe himself as a billionaire, but that isn’t strictly true — at least, not as of our last count for the Forbes 400 in fall 2011. Technically, the Ricketts Family Education Trust is the equity holder of the Cubs rather than Joe himself, so we don’t count the team towards our valuation of Joe’s net worth. As a result, he just missed the billionaire cut as TD Ameritrade’s stock was down.
Since then, though, the stock has rebounded slightly; Ricketts may well be on the 2012 Forbes 400 list. He owns about 9.5% of the company, with his wife Marlene holding another 2.5% of the shares. This is splitting hairs in terms of the Ricketts family’s overall wealth, which is certainly in the multi-billions.
Since the Times published its story on Thursday, Joe has denied that the ‘Ricketts Plan’ in question would ever have come to fruition. Brian Baker of the Ending Spending Action Fund, a Super PAC Ricketts backs, sent the following statement to Forbes:
Joe Ricketts is a registered independent, a fiscal conservative, and an outspoken critic of the Obama Administration, but he is neither the author nor the funder of the so-called “Ricketts Plan” to defeat Mr. Obama that The New York Times wrote about this morning. Not only was this plan merely a proposal – one of several submitted to the Ending Spending Action Fund by third-party vendors – but it reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take.
Suggestion or not, the Times story highlights just how divided the Ricketts family is in terms of politics. While Joe works to defeat Obama, his only daughter has been raising funds for his re-election.
Laura Ricketts is one of President Obama’s ‘bundlers‘, or super-fundraisers, tapping her network of wealthy, influential friends, colleagues and peers to raise an unlimited amount for his 2012 campaign. So far, the openly gay lawyer and mother has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the cause. She is one of 27 high-profile gay and lesbian ‘bundlers’ for Obama, according to investigative work by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Laura is a well-known figure in her adopted hometown of Chicago, both for being the first openly lesbian owner of a major sports franchise and for her work in pushing for marriage equality. She was, until recently, a board member at Lambda Legal, the group responsible for filing the initial suit that resulted in Iowa’s same-sex marriage win.
Laura told the Chicago Tribune in 2010 that after George W. Bush’s election in 2004, she knew she needed to fight for equal rights: “People were talking about trying to change the Constitution to discriminate against me. I just felt like I had to get more involved.”
Since then, she’s been outspoken in the need to pursue marriage equality nationwide. In fact, when she introduced the President at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser in February, she said the event was being held “to show the president that the LGBT community stands strongly behind his re-election.”