Joe Ricketts’ emails must be a tempting target. Should Tom Tunney knock them out of the park?
Ricketts, 77, is the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, a major Republican donor, and the patriarch of the wealthy family that owns and operates the Chicago Cubs.
Tunney, the veteran 44th Ward alderman, is in a political slugfest, facing business consultant Austin Baidas and Elizabeth Shydlowski, a non-profit consultant, in the Feb. 26 municipal election.
The attacks are flying faster than outfield blasts. Tunney’s opponents charge he has supported rampant property tax hikes and overseen a decline in public safety and schools in the north lakefront ward.
Tunney defends his record, saying he has supported community-based development and affordable housing, and won new funding for schools and parks. Tunney claims he serves as a crucial bulwark against the wealthy Ricketts family’s massively lucrative and growing Wrigley Field empire.
Last week’s email dump exposed a fertile fault line. The website Splinter News published a slew of missives exposing the bigoted views that travel through Joe Ricketts’ in-box.
Barack Obama is “a liar and a cheat,” Ricketts wrote in 2010. “Thank God there are a lot of people like us.” His musings touted the nonsensical and racist “birther” theories about where the former president was born.
‘‘Islam is a cult and not a religion,” Ricketts wrote. “Christianity and Judaism are based on love, whereas Islam is based on ‘kill the infidel,’ a thing of evil.’’
Joe Ricketts has apologized. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts called his father’s emails “racially insensitive” and said “these emails do not reflect the culture we’ve worked so hard to build at the Chicago Cubs since 2009.” His father has no involvement in team operations, he added.
Joe Ricketts has been here before. In 2012, the Ricketts were pushing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to back a $150 million taxpayer-funded subsidy to help renovate Wrigley Field.
Then the New York Times reported that Joe Ricketts was plotting a racially motivated ad campaign to undermine Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
The subsidy never happened.
Now the Cubs want to expand their business dynasty in Lakeview, and turn Wrigley Field into a Disneyland by the el.
In a recent, scathing op-ed published in Crain’s Chicago Business, Tom’s sister, Laura Ricketts, called Tunney “a rubber stamp for the mayor and other insiders.”
“Tunney has a 16-year track record of voting for some of the largest property tax hikes in Chicago history, the questionable parking meter deal and hundreds of millions of dollars in police misconduct settlements.”
The Ricketts want him out because he did not cave to their demands, Tunney responded in his own opinion piece. The “family’s franchise did not get everything they want — unlimited night games and activities, a bridge from the hotel to the stadium on Clark Street, and complete closures of nearby streets.”
Shydlowski has received a $10,000 campaign contribution from Tom Ricketts. The family wants Tunney gone.
Those evil emails are rich fodder for exposing a billionaire family that is out-of-step with Chicago’s political winds.
Tom’s brother Todd, the Republican National Committee’s finance chair, has been tapped to oversee fundraising for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Another brother, Pete, is the GOP governor of Nebraska. (Laura, a Democratic donor and LGBTQ activist, is the exception).
Tunney should ignore the political noise and keep his eye on the ball.
It’s a simple pitch: Should an alderman look out for the billionaires, or his constituents?
Follow Laura Washington on Twitter @MediaDervish