The confetti has been swept. The balloons have all been popped. The Democratic National Convention, which took over the Wells Fargo Center for nearly a week, has officially moved out.
Things can start to get back to normal around the sports complex, and while that means home games for the Phillies, training camp for the Eagles and pre-season planning for the Flyers and Sixers, it doesn’t necessarily mean the crossover between sports and politics is going to stop. In fact, with the next four months being the most crucial time of this election cycle, that connection will likely strengthen, albeit in a different way.
The five major Philadelphia sports franchises are owned by some very rich men. (And, in some cases, their wives.) (And in at least one case, an ex-wife.)
Very rich men who own sports franchises rarely make their fortunes that way, which means these very rich men are almost always involved in other businesses. Many times, those businesses — and even the sports teams, if we’re being fair — benefit from the help of local and national politicians. Arenas can be built with taxpayer dollars. Tax breaks in the hundreds of millions can be given to team owners for moving their businesses across a river.
Elections are decided at the ballot box, but they are often won and lost far earlier. Very rich men, and their donations, will sway national, regional and local elections well before we vote on November 8.
It’s already happening. During this election cycle, the principal owners (note: not Will Smith) of the Philadelphia sports teams donated more than $302,000 to various Federal Elections Commission-listed campaigns and PACs. Much of that money came from the Sixers two primary owners, Joshua Harris and David Blitzer.
[table id=FEC-donations-sports-owners /]
Harris and Blitzer are part of a group that owns both the Sixers and the New Jersey Devils, which spreads their interests across much of the Mid-Atlantic region. That could explain why both Harris and Blitzer have donated to candidates on both sides of the river, and the aisle.
Since 2010, Blitzer has donated $6,600 to New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D), while also donating to Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio’s presidential campaigns. As individual contributions to candidates are capped, Blitzer’s largest donations have gone to the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) — $10,000 each of the last three years — and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — $5,000 in 2012.
Harris has a fascinating donation history. He has contributed to the senate campaigns of Democrats Robert Menendez in 2011, Harry Reid in 2007, Arlen Specter in 2004 and Schumer in 2002, but he also donated to Rudy Giuliani’s Presidential campaign in 2007, as well as Mitt Romney’s the same cycle.
Last year, Harris donated more than $5,000 to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, and the same amount to Schumer. He gave $5,400 to both Republicans Charles Grassley of Iowa and Mark Kirk of Illinois last year too.
And yet, like Blitzer, the biggest donations from Harris went to PACs, as he donated $33,400 to NRSC and $100,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC used to fund Republicans in key races around the country.
Since 2007, Harris has donated more than $123,000 to the NRSC, with more than $85,000 donated since his group purchased the Sixers and Devils, to go along with more than $30,000 to the Republican National Committee. In 2012, the FEC report indicates he donated $38,300 to a group called Romney Victory, Inc., so clearly not every donation has led to election success.
The Sixers owners weren’t the only group to donate to those not exactly welcome in the Wells Fargo Center this week. Before his passing, Ed Snider donated more than $43,000 this campaign cycle, including $10,000 to Toomey Victory Committee and $9,600 to the NRSC. Snider and his wife both donated more than $10,000 to Ted Cruz’s run for POTUS as well.
There are some Philly owners on the other side of the aisle. Jeffrey Lurie donated $2,700 to Hillary Clinton last April, the same day his wife made an identical donation. Lurie, who has donated to both Clinton and Barack Obama in the past, also donated to the Bush-Cheney campaign back in 2003.
The bulk of Lurie’s donations have gone to a group called the Gridiron PAC, to which all NFL owners donate. The NFL lobby is very strong in Washington, D.C.
Lurie’s ex-wife, Christina Weiss Lurie, has been far more active in this election cycle, as the Eagles minority owner has donated to Kamala Harris, Democrat from California, as well as senate candidate Katie McGinty, to which Weiss Lurie has donated $7,200 in three contributions over the last 10 months.
It would be ironic if Philadelphia Union owner Jay Sugarman was not a pro-union guy, but it seems he probably is, as he is a consistent donor for Hillary Clinton, including a donation of $2,700 last year. Sugarman made two donations to Clinton’s campaign in 2009 — many of us recall getting those emails to help pay down her campaign debt long after she lost the election — but in 2011 he did go against Obama, donating in a losing cause to Romney in 2011.
It’s not surprising to see the Phillies owners are predictably stingy with money. John S. Middleton has donated $136,500 to campaigns and causes since 1997, but only $2,700 —to John Kasich — this election cycle.
Jim Buck of the notoriously private Buck brothers donated $500 (it appears, it’s really hard to track them) to Kasich. His brother had no listed donations. Former owner Bill Giles has donated to Bob Casey in the past, as well as Mitt Romney in 2012. This cycle he has given Democrat Dwight Evans $1,500.
David Montgomery has been the most active Phillies owner in the political world, throwing a few thousand toward McGinty, Evans, Patrick Meehan and Jeb Bush. The bulk of Montgomery’s money — $10,000 over two years — has gone to an MLB action committee.
Here is a compilation of all FEC-listed contributions over this election cycle. As the election gets closer, it’s safe to expect many of these numbers to increase.
[table id=Sports-Owner-Donations /]