By John Dodge
CHICAGO (CBS) — Following his momentum-building victory in South Carolina, Donald Trump today took aim at the Ricketts family, accusing the Chicago Cubs’ owners of funneling their cash into initiatives aimed at bringing down the GOP presidential front-runner.
The tweet also contains a veiled threat:
Members of the Ricketts’ family, led by Thomas Ricketts, bought the Cubs in 2009.
Ricketts’ father, Joe, is the founder of Ameritrade, but he does not have any active role in the baseball club. Joe Ricketts is active politically, spending his wealth on efforts to curtail government spending.
This January, Joe Ricketts’ wife, Marlene, contributed $3 million to the anti-Trump Our Principles political action committee, according to federal election campaign reports. Lake Forest businessman Richard Uihlein contributed $7,500.
The group paid for anti-Trump ads and mailers before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, according to the campaign reports.
Joe and his son, Todd, lead the Ending Spending super PAC.
According to the PACs website, Ending Spending “is dedicated to educating and engaging American taxpayers about wasteful and excessive government spending.”
“We believe our elected representatives must end the practice of mortgaging the economic futures of our children and grandchildren to pay for present-day spending,” it reads.
The donations are one of the first public signals that some members of the Republican establishment, alarmed by Trump’s emergence at the party’s presidential front-runner, are moving to undermine the billionaire real estate mogul.
It wouldn’t be the first time the Ricketts family considered political mudslinging.
In 2012, according to the New York Times, members of the Ricketts family considered an incendiary attack on President Obama, linking him to controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright.
The strategy, titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good,” was presented to members of the family but was never implemented.
Wright’s racially inflammatory sermons became a campaign issue for Obama during his first election in 2008. Obama attended Wright’s Chicago church before running for president.
According to Forbes, the family’s net worth hovers around $1 billion.
A Ricketts’ family spokesman, Dennis Culloton, declined comment.
Reformers complain that the super-rich can pour millions into super PACs, producing attack ads while hiding for weeks exactly who’s paying the bill.
“In the case of this super PAC that was spending against Donald Trump, they’ve been spending money for two months but they haven’t reported a donor until three days ago and we think that’s something that really should be changed,” said Sarah Brune of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
Some top Republicans seem to be keeping their distance from Trump’s comments.
Governor Bruce Rauner quickly ducked the issue. He says the Republican race has been “wild” and he is not commenting on any of it. He says his focus is on keeping Illinois strong.