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Cubs’ Todd Ricketts to co-chair Scott Walker’s fundraising effort

WASHINGTON — Todd Ricketts, the Chicago Cubs board member who runs an influential super PAC, will co-chair GOP White House hopeful Scott Walker’s fundraising drive, jumping into a presidential race for the first time, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Walker, the Wisconsin governor, will formally announce for president on Monday afternoon at the Waukesha County Expo Center just west of Milwaukee. In the coming days, Walker will stump in the early vote states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The other Walker finance co-chair is Jon Hammes, a real estate developer who owns a piece of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

I reported in May that Ricketts was backing Walker, hosting a barbecue for him at his Wilmette home, with cheeseburgers off the grill and beer on the menu. The event benefiting Walker’s political action committee, which is named “Unintimidated,” financed the run-up to Walkers’ 2016 campaign.

By taking on major fundraising chores for Walker, Ricketts, a national political player who usually keeps a very low profile, vaults into a more public role.

Ricketts is the CEO of the conservative Ending Spending super PAC and its nonprofit advocacy arm founded by his father, Joe, the former CEO of TD Ameritrade. It’s not clear how leading the Walker fundraising drive will affect Ricketts’ Ending Spending role.

Todd and Joe Ricketts have been donors to Walker gubernatorial and recall campaigns. Their Ending Spending Action Fund jumped in to help when Walker was the subject of a recall in 2012, spending about $250,000.

But there is more to the backstory.

Snaring the support of Todd Ricketts – and tapping into his network of wealthy GOP activists — is a big boost for Walker, who faces the potential of 16 rivals for the Republican nomination, including Jeb Bush, the very well-financed former Florida governor.

Getting the backing of Todd and Joe Ricketts was not automatic for Walker.

It came after Todd Ricketts and his father sat down with almost every Republican in the 2016 field for personal meetings earlier this year all across the country.

As those meetings were unfolding last February, a source told the Sun-Times that the leading strategists for seven of the top contenders were invited for more briefings at Joe Ricketts’ ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Walker gets another dividend with Ricketts taking on a leadership role in his presidential campaign: a running start when it comes to the March 2016 Republican primary in Illinois, which could take on significance if no one in the crowded pack locks up an early lead.