The New York Times first reported that a plan was submitted to Joe Ricketts to use $10 million to fund Super PAC advertisements linking Obama to the controversial preaching of his onetime pastor,Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose teachings were perceived as a liability to the president when he ran in 2008.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts, who has been pushing a plan to get government help in rebuilding Wrigley Field, issued a statement distancing himself and the organization from that plan.
“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 Ricketts said in the statement. “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.”
Ricketts’ statement came as Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, blasted the proposed political attack on the president as an insult to the nation.
“I don’t think that’s fitting in a campaign of any nature,” Emanuel said, cautioning that he does not have first-hand knowledge of the Ricketts effort. “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,” added the mayor. “And it’s insulting to the president, it’s insulting to the country.”
The Cubs are trying to work out a deal with the city that would involve using $150 million in city amusement taxes for a $300 million renovation of Wrigley Field.
The presidential campaign issue was widely viewed as threatening to upend the delicate talks between the family and city and state government. A mayoral aide said Emanuel was furious when he read about the anti-Obama ad proposal.
At City Hall, it did not go unnoticed that part of the Ricketts family is asking for taxpayer support while gearing up to spend millions on a presidential campaign. The mayoral aide described that as hypocritical.
The Emanuel aide said the Ricketts family has tried to contact Emanuel to discuss the situation, but the mayor declined the overture. Publicly, Emanuel did not have an immediate comment on how the effort by Joe Ricketts might affect those talks.
“I’ll have some conversations on that later — comments rather,” Emanuel said.
Laura Ricketts, a major fundraiser for Obama and Cubs co-owner, also issued a statement today:
“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.
"Though we may have diverse political views, above all we love and respect each other,” Laura Ricketts said in a statement. "My own personal view is that President Obama has been a great leader in very difficult times. He 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.”
The political consulting firm that drafted the proposed ad campaign against Obama, Strategic Perception Inc., said the Ricketts family never approved it, and nothing has happened on it since the presentation.”
Brian Baker, president of the Super PAC Ending Spending Action Fund, which is heavily funded by Joe Ricketts, issued a statement today saying the attack ad against Obama won’t go forward.
“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,” Baker said. “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.”
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