Friday, November 12, 2010

Cubs Owner Who Funded Tea Party Group Now Wants State Aid for Wrigley Renovation

* sigh *

Here is Cubs owner Joe Ricketts, and a description of his election activities. He did disclose, so give him credit for that.

There's also Taxpayers Against Earmarks (TAE), a new nonprofit "dedicated to educating and engaging American taxpayers about wasteful government spending and the misguided practice of earmarks." While its mission is educational, it has an affiliated political arm -- what's known as a "super PAC" for its ability to raise and spend any amount it wants -- called the Ending Spending Fund, which just put nearly $600,000 into the Nevada Senate race against Majority Leader Harry Reid (D). The "taxpayers" against earmarks is actually just one man named Joe Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs, who is also the sole financier of the Ending Spending Fund.

And here is the Ricketts family now, coming to the state of Illinois with their hands out for help from the government. Watch for the fine print...

The Cubs' proposal calls for the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, which owns U.S. Cellular Field, to float $250 million to $300 million in bonds. The bonds would be paid over 35 years through amusement taxes that Wrigley Field customers pay. Ricketts and his family also pledge to match the state's investment in the ballpark with their own investments in redeveloping land outside the stadium.

In 2009, the Cubs paid $16.1 million in amusement taxes to the city of Chicago and Cook County through a 12 percent levy on each ticket. The team proposes that the city and county would be guaranteed this amount for the duration of the bonds. But the incremental growth in amusement taxes beyond $16.1 million, either through increased ticket sales or increased ticket prices at Wrigley, would pay the bonds over time, Ricketts said.

Just in case "increased ticket prices" don't meet those needs... well... the people that are hell-bent on destroying the taxpayer-funded safety net for others are certainly going to need a taxpayer-funded safety net for themselves. It's just business, you understand.

The Cubs owner, though, is seeking a safety net in case the amusement tax does not cover the bond payments. Ricketts would like the bonds to be backed by revenue streams that are assigned to the facilities authority, including a 2 percent hotel tax.

Illinois is facing a budget crisis that makes Michigan look like a small-state backwater - $15 billion and counting at last report, with Governor Pat Quinn floating an income tax increase as part of a plan to balance the budget (and yes, he won re- election, but just barely). This proposal is news to Quinn, but apparently the Ricketts family has been floating the idea with members of the administration and Chicago city officials. Reactions so far have been mixed.

This isn't new taxes though. Oh no. This is the Ricketts family wanting the state to borrow the money, provide a safety net for the family - and then they get to keep any extras. See how that works?

"The state has no credit risk here," Ricketts said. "No one is losing anything. It's not a new tax, and it's not increasing taxes. It will allow us to keep some of the growth in a tax."

It is good for the city, the state, and the team to keep Wrigley in tip-top shape and make improvements to the surrounding neighborhood. All for that - if it wasn't for the screaming hypocrisy of the Ricketts family using their family fortune in an attempt to influence elections to try to deny "spending" on others.

And coming on the heels of Ryne Sandberg leaving and Aramis Ramirez staying, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to continuing to support the Cubs in the future. Dammit.