Cubs Owner Takes Over Nebraska Senate Race

Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts (left) at Wrigley Field.Imago/ZumaPress.com


The Cubs might finally win one.

On Tuesday, Nebraska Republicans will pick their nominee to take on former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) in November’s US Senate election (Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson is retiring). It’s a fairly straightforward race—in one corner, there’s establishment pick Jon Bruning, the state’s attorney general; in the other is state Sen. Deb Fischer, a tea party favorite who has the backing of Sarah Palin. Fischer holds a narrow lead according to the most recent poll of the race, and she’s had a little bit of help. As Nebraska Watchdog reports, over the final week of the campaign, a super-PAC called Ending Spending Action Fund has poured $200,000 into television ads attacking Bruning for using his political connections for his own enrichment. One week ago, Bruning had a 16-point lead. Now he trails Fischer by five points.

Who’s behind Ending Spending? Just one man: Joe Ricketts, billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, father of 2006 Nebraska GOP Senate candidate Tom Peter Ricketts, and owner, with his family, of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs.

Ricketts, you may recall, is also one of the leading donors behind the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the super-PAC dedicated to financing primary challenges to entrenched incumbents in both parties. Ricketts gave that group $500,000. In 2010, Ending Spending dumped $600,000—all of it from Joe Ricketts—into the Nevada Senate race in the final month of the campaign in support of Sen. Harry Reid’s GOP challenger Sharron Angle. As Huffington Post‘s Amanda Terkel reported, the super-PAC was formed one month before the election, and its treasurer, Nancy Watkins, served as the treasurer for three other dark money outfits.

Super-PACs have been a dominant story of the presidential campaign so far, but their influence is just as pronounced at the state and district level, where a large sum of money can easily tip the scales in favor of one candidate or another.

Update: Cubs win! Cubs win! The Associated Press has called the race for Fischer.

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Tim Murphy

    Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Reach him at tmurphy@motherjones.com.