Chris Chatham (MLB Managing Editor)
Last week Major League Baseballís Political Action Committeeís (PAC) records of campaign donations became public for the first time.
The purpose of MLBPAC was to lobby for protect the infamous antitrust exemption which allows baseball to run their league any way it wants without the risk of being reprimanded on anti-trust laws that apply to every other business in this country. It is also the duty of the MLBPAC to lobby for the protection of their copyrights on the Internet.
Well after the records were released I took the liberty and searched into various government and public websites and have compiled a list of every elected official that received campaign donations from the MLBPAC along with other political action committees they have donated too.
The list includes 21 US Senators (13 Democrat 8 Republican) and 37 Representatives in the US House (19 Democrat 18 Republican). I also found 10 other political action committees that help out political candidates for both parties.
Itís only fair to let you all know that when the MLBPAC is lobbying in DC to congressional and senatorial candidates to give you the names of the candidates themselves.
Most of this money went to members of the House and Senate Judicial and Commerce Committees if not all of it.
But just like in all of politics when you follow the money trail you usually find a lot of hypocrisy.
Many of these active politicians were locked in on Bud Selig when he put the Minnesota Twins in front of the firing squad for contraction in late 2001. Legislation was introduced into the House (HR: 3288) late 2001 but it disappeared before it ever went to vote.
HR: 3288 Fairness in Antitrust in National Sports (FANS) Act of 2001. This bill would amend federal antitrust laws so that they would apply to Major League Baseball, which currently is the only sports association to enjoy an exemption from these laws
The bill was introduced by Minnesota Senators Mark Dayton (D) and the late Paul Wellstone (D) who were out to protect the Twins from no longer existing.
Those two senators were consistent. There was no direct money line between Major League Baseball and Senators Wellstone and Dayton. However there were other politicians that spoke out against the proposed contraction like Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) who in the end DID receive contributions from MLBPAC.
In fact I managed to look into some archived reports for some quotes about what they said about HR: 3288 and Commissioner Bud Selig.
On his government website Sensenbrenner stated that ďÖmaybe the Supreme Courtís help in 1922 has outlived its usefulness and the market should be allowed to work in baseball like it has in the other major sports.Ē
Rep. James Sensenbrenner received $5,000 from MLBPAC on May 22nd 2002 via his campaign fund, the Sensenbrenner Committee. With that fat check Sensenbrenner joins Missouri Congressman and Presidential Candidate Dick Gephardt as the biggest beneficiaries from MLBPAC.
At this time we found that Gephardt was pretty consistent in his pro-Selig rhetoric. Heís been trying to find a way to get the pending new stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals to remain in downtown St. Louis.
Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) told the Associated Press that Commissioner Selig would have a ďbig problemĒ with him if he continued to pursue the contraction of the Minnesota Twins in late 2001.
May 23rd 2002 Dorgan accepted a $1,000 donation from the MLBPAC. The first of what would be three $1,000 donations into the Friends of Byron Dorgan campaign fund.
He took a swing a Selig and now all of a sudden baseball is one of the ďfriendsĒ of Byron Dorgan?
I thought so too. Kind of laughable isnít it?
Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) was also given $1,000 via Mike DeWine for US Senate fund and also got MLBPAC to donate an extra $3,000 to the Ohioís 17 Star PAC which heís affiliated with.
Iím not a hardcore political analyst but I believe that three grand was known as ďsoft money.Ē If I'm wrong then let me know. My email is at the end of this article.
Similar donations were given to Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota). The ďA Lot of People Supporting Tom DaschleĒ campaign received a cool grand from baseball on May 22nd 2002. He also managed to get another $1,000 check to the Dedicated Americans for the Senate and the House PAC (DASHPAC) which he is affiliated with.
On October 4th 2002 MLBPAC contributed $2,000 to the New Republican Majority Fund. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) affiliates that PAC. Relax those select offensive comments he made happened two months after the transaction. Canít nail anybody for that one.
What I did notice is that the third party PACís that took money from baseball didnít give money to the controversial politicians on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Washington), Rep. David Bonior (D-Michigan) Rep. Mike Thompson (D-California); the three congressmen who flew to Baghdad prior to the war and ripped President Bush calling him a liar, didnít get a direct line from MLBPAC nor did any of the other PACís itís supported.
With the exception of Trent Lott (who once again, made those offensive statements after the donation date) there wasnít anybody in DC that was extremely controversial for their words and actions were not given any money from baseball from direct or indirect parties. And if for whatever reason, somebody on the list did something that stupid chances are it happened after they took the money.
Now with all those things out of the way the single most outspoken politician about the baseball antitrust exemption was none other than Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Michigan). When the Twins were on the line this was the guy who seemingly stood up for the disgruntled fans of the game. He co-sponsored HR: 3288 with Senators Wellstone and Dayton.
He vowed to us all that he would do everything in his power to see that this does not happen and vowed to fight the antitrust exemption that Major League Baseball has.
In fact I have taken the liberty for you all of digging up a quote from the Associated Press archives about the contraction issue.
"This unprecedented decision is bad for the fans, bad for the players on the field and the workers and businesses at and around the stadium, bad for the minor league teams that will also be cut loose, and bad for the cities that will be forced into new and more costly bidding wars to avoid being dumped by baseball."
Hereís another one from the same article.
"Any time 30 of the wealthiest and most influential individuals get together behind closed doors and agree to reduce output, that cannot be a good thing for anyone but the monopolists. I will do everything in my power to see that this ill-considered decision does not stand, including introducing legislation to insure that the full weight of the antitrust laws applies to this anti-competitive decision."
I knew I recognized Conyers from somewhere when I went over the list of politicians. Then I remembered when I dug up some of this stuff. Who knows I might have actually praised the man in a previous column because of his hard stance.
Conyers wrote a letter to Commissioner Bud Selig asking him to step down in January 2002. A request that was quickly declined by Selig.
Well guess what folks? He too is on the MLBPAC list of donations. Just 6 months after writing that letter to Bud Selig a $1,000 was deposited into the Friends of John Conyers' campaign fund. Two months later another $2,000 went into that same campaign fund.
This was the biggest rebel to Bud Selig throughout this whole thing and now all of a sudden heís on the MLBPAC payroll? Are you catching my drift Tiger fans?
For those who go to the ballpark and watch the Detroit Tigers play let me ask you this. What positive aspect of the antitrust exemption has affected you? In fact let me go a step further. Has the new Collective Bargaining Agreement helped the Tigers in any way shape or form?
Well, you elected him. I donít live in Michigan nor have I ever been there but if a congressman from the State of Washington did this Iíd have a problem. Fortunately for me the only politician out of the Pacific Northwest to accept donations was Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon).
In other words, John Conyers pulled the wool over the eyes of his district and until now nobody ever knew or they just never cared. While digging up all this research I can now understand why people aren't going to the polls anymore.
I have two reasons why I grinded on all the public records online for you all.
1) Public Service
I figured since people from all walks of life were emailing me throughout the 2002 season with anti-Selig or MLB Boycott sites I knew that there was a boatload of people that were tired of it all and wanted the antitrust exemption to be revoked because of it. Iíve put some polls up on the FanStop.com message boards and so far people in favor of revoking it far outweigh the exemptionís support.
2) Major League Baseball Now Has A Clear Path To More Corruption.
They have just about all their tracks covered now. So in the future if the thought of screwing the State of Minnesota ever comes up again they'll have a bigger support-line from Capitol Hill.
The fact that the Minnesota Twins still havenít gotten themselves a new stadium plan puts Commissioner Selig and the other owners in prime position to take another stab at moving the Twins out of Minneapolis one more time if they really wanted to.
There is nobody on Capitol Hill from Minnesota that received contributions from MLBPAC. However North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio have gotten paid. Baseball fans in Minnesota find themselves boxed in by its neighboring states and by any other politician they would be counting on to fight for them.
In fact anybody on Capitol Hill that has any significant power is on this list.
If Portland Oregon doesnít land the Expos in July then the next move by Portland officials would be to push extremely hard and land another existing team. Thatís where the Minnesota Twins comes in. In fact the Twins might be a better offer than the Expos because they are young and they are amongst the best teams in the game.
Which explains why I saw Oregon Senator Gordon Smithís name on the donationsí list. I had trouble figuring Smith out because if you revoke the exemption from baseball he could get a team into Oregon much easier. But he seems to be willing to play the political game with a commissioner whose testimoney to the government was contradicted by Forbes magazine.
To make things blunt for you. If Selig wants to get the Twins out of Minnesota, he can and he may do so in the next 12-24 months.
So now after all of these numbers we find out that the Twins are still in the fire pit and this time the people they once counted on are now on payroll for the MLBPAC.
Now we will find out how much pull the Minnesota Senators really have. Mark Dayton is the only sponsor of HR: 3288 left. His colleague from (Wellstone) Minnesota died tragically and John Conyers sold out and deceived us all.
Politics as usual and even baseball is included.
Questions? Comments? Do I Have Soft Money? Please contact Chris Chatham via email... firstname.lastname@example.org
To view the list of Senators on MLBPAC's list Click Here
To view the list of Congressmen on MLBPAC's list Click Here
To view the list of other PAC's that baseball contributed to Click Here