Bail Out Joe Ricketts

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 17 2012 2:49 PM

Bail Out Joe Ricketts

Greg Hinz was the first with the news that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was "livid" about Joe Ricketts's unused Super PAC pitch. (The "livid" comes from an anonymous aide, but Emanuel, quoted by local press, is clearly pissed off.) The context: The Chicago Cubs are working on a public-private partnership to rebuild Wrigley Field. The Ricketts family owns the Cubs. As Hinz puts it: "It's not unfair to ask whether money the city would ship the Cubs would free up family cash to trash Mr. Obama."

Also fair to point out: What a ludicrous hypocrite Ricketts is. The latest version of the Wrigley plan cost $500 million, with much of the public committment coming from (quoting Hinz) "$150 million or so in bonds to be retired with increased revenue from the existing city and Cook County amusement taxes on ticket sales." In addition, the Cubs want "a 50 percent cut of any increase in amusement tax revenue growth above 6 percent."

Well, now I'm treading on the territory Tim Murphy planted at the start of the day. Ricketts wants tax money to help rebuild a business he owns. He can argue that there's a public interest in the partnership -- more business at Wrigley is good for Chicago. And despite all the research on how stadium bailouts actually work, it makes some intuitive sense. But... it's the argument that Democrats make when they want more money for rail, to build up later commerce. It's not what you expect from someone whose PAC is called Ending Spending.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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