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Friday, August 15, 2008
Pro Sports Team Owners' Contributions to McCain and Obama

The political leanings of owners of NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL teams are often unknown. To the extent the media reports on those owners, it's normally sports reporters who do so, and normally in the context of the team they own or the league in which they are associated.

Granted, some of the owners may have party affiliations that are publicly available, while a few owners are well known in party circles, but for the most part, we don't know where they stand on issues (and nor do we probably care).

We can still make assumptions about owners' politics, however. Given their vast wealth, for instance, we might assume that owners are more likely to support candidates who propose lower taxes (be it income or capital gain taxes or other forms of taxation).

Thanks to Kenneth Vogel and Matthew Lindsey of The Politico, we now have some suggestive empirical evidence on owners' politics. Vogel and Lindsey studied the financial contributions of NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL owners in this presidential election cycle and discovered they seem to prefer giving money to John McCain over Barack Obama (though often they give to both) . Here is an excerpt of Vogel and Lindsey's piece.

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Sports owners fund McCain, shun Obama
By: Kenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Lindsey
August 15, 2008 06:06 AM EST

Sports team owners may not be John McCain’s answer to the Hollywood elite, but they’re overwhelmingly supporting his presidential campaign over Barack Obama’s.

Through the end of June, team owners in the four major sports and their families have given or raised more than $3.2 million to McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, compared to only $615,000 to his Democratic rival Obama, according to a Politico analysis of data from the Federal Election Commission, the campaigns and interviews.

Not only did McCain raise more than Obama from the owners in each of the four major professional sports leagues analyzed, but McCain even raised six times more from the owners of teams in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

Sam Zell, the owner of baseball’s Chicago Cubs, gave more than $22,000 to McCain’s committees, though he also gave Obama $2,300, as did the owner of the Chicago White Sox and Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf, who gave that much to both McCain and Obama.

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Sports team owners are often either loved or loathed in their communities. But most have unquestioned financial clout and fundraising ability, because it takes extreme wealth and connections to purchase a sports team.

Though sports moguls tend to skew conservative for the same reasons as other very wealthy folks – aversion to high taxes and regulation – their interests and backgrounds are eclectic, said Andrew Zimbalist, a professor at Smith College who has written extensively about the economics of sport.

“Today, a guy who owns a sport team is somebody who has generated a big pile of money in some other industry, and it’s very likely that their primordial financial interests and instincts are rooted in that other industry,” he said. Those industries include oil, construction, real estate, entertainment, casinos, high technology, trial law, ice cream and, of course, family inheritance.

But even owners who are major Democratic donors have yet to loosen their purse strings for Obama. The owners of football’s Philadelphia Eagles, baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, basketball’s New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings, and hockey’s Anaheim Ducks and their families, for instance, gave a combined $1.1 million in political contributions this presidential cycle, mostly to Democratic political committees and candidates.

That sum includes more than $60,000 to New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who Obama narrowly edged out for the Democratic presidential nomination. As of the end of June though—the most recent month for which there are data available – those owners had not given a dime to Obama.

Most of the owners who gave to Clinton but not Obama did not respond to requests for comment on why.

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To read the rest of the piece, click here.


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