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Old 09-19-2009, 03:37 PM   #1
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Politicians Score Significant Cash From NFL Owners, Coaches and Players
Published by Dave Levinthal on September 17, 2009 2:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

The San Diego Chargers are hardly professional football's most prolific team, having advanced to just one Super Bowl – they lost the game – in 43 years.

When playing politics, however, the Chargers are untouchable: Team owners, officials and players have combined to contribute more than $2.4 million to political candidates and committees since the 1990 election cycle, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of federal campaign finance data indicates.

That's nearly four times as much as the runner-up Houston Texans, whose associates have contributed more than $623,000 to federal candidates and committees during the past two decades.

As the 32-team National Football League begins its 2009 season, the Chargers and Texans stand among 20 clubs to donate more than $100,000 to federal political interests since the 1990 election cycle, according to the Center's analysis. Executives and employees of the league itself have also teamed together to contribute more than $322,000 during that time frame.

Certainly, the interplay of football and government isn’t anything new.

Several current and ex-congressmen – Jack Kemp, Tom Osborne, Steve Largent, Heath Shuler, J.C. Watts – are former professional players.

Byron “Whizzer” White, long after his days as an NFL halfback concluded, served more than three decades as a Supreme Court justice, while Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Page is a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

And former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? She once said that her "dream job" is NFL commissioner, and she briefly flirted with the idea of becoming president of her beloved San Francisco 49ers.

But professional football's political activity has of late proven particularly notable, with various league and team executives, employees and players donating more than $1.72 million to federal candidates and committees during the 2008 election cycle alone.

That figure represents nearly a fourth of all professional football-related political contributions during the past 20 years, according to the Center's analysis.

The NFL last year also created a political action committee – the Gridiron PAC – and opened an office in Washington, D.C., from which to better lobby lawmakers.

"Like any large business, a presence in Washington is a good thing to have for us," Jeff Miller, the NFL's vice president for government relations and public policy, told Capital Eye.

Miller noted that the NFL now employs two full-time staffers in Washington who lobby on and track a variety of governmental issues that interest the league: labor law, media policy, illegal gambling, communications and performance-enhancing drugs.

The NFL's lobbying activity has increased considerably during the past two years, with lobbying expenditures on pace this year to reach $1.4 million – easily exceeding the league's previous high of $1.15 million in 2007.

The Gridiron PAC serves to bolster this effort. Since its inception last year, the PAC has contributed $63,500 to 19 different federal candidates through June 30. About two-thirds of the PAC’s political donations went to Democrats.

Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) all received the $5,000 maximum the PAC can give during an election cycle.

On the House side, recipients of $5,000 are: Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Asked if the NFL uses a particular methodology for its political donations, Miller says it does not, noting candidate contributions are made on a "case by case basis."

Perhaps not surprisingly, monied team owners and their top executives are most likely to make political contributions among people associated with professional football.

In the Chargers' case, team owner Alex Spanos ranks as professional football's most prolific political bankroller. He alone has contributed more than $2 million to political candidates and committees during the past two decades, almost all Republican. Members of his family – several of whom occupy top front office posts in the Chargers organization – have likewise collectively contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to various candidates and committees.

Houston Texans owner Robert McNair, meanwhile, has donated more than $543,000 to political candidates and committees since 1989. Other six-figure political contributors include San Diego Chargers President Dean Spanos, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, New York Jets owner Robert W. Johnson IV and former New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson.

This list largely mirrors top political donors during the 2008 election cycle, with Alex Spanos ($184,600), McNair ($176,664), Dean Spanos ($155,000), Snyder ($127,100) and Johnson ($87,900) ranking in the top five among the more than 200 people associated with professional football who made a political contribution of $200 or more.

While Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has individually only contributed a fraction of these amounts to political interests, his family has collectively donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates and committees – primarily Democratic.

President Barack Obama earlier this year named Dan Rooney ambassador to Ireland. Tom Rooney, Dan Rooney's son, is also a freshman Republican congressman representing Florida's 16th District.

While not at nearly the levels of team owners and executives, NFL players and coaches have also made tens of thousands of dollars worth of political contributions in recent years.

During the 2008 election cycle, Obama received a number of contributions from players and coaches, including Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez ($4,600), Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith ($2,300), Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams ($2,300) and Indianapolis Colts defensive end Raheem Brock ($2,300). Rich Eisen isn't a player -- he's an NFL Network broadcaster -- but he, too, donated $1,500 to Obama.

Republicans haven't been completely sidelined, however.

Chargers coach Norv Turner gave $2,300 to GOP presidential nominee John McCain, while Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid contributed $2,300 to Republican presidential also-ran Mitt Romney. Other Romney bankrollers include Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap ($2,300) and Buffalo Bills defensive end Ryan Denney ($2,300).

The Indianapolis Colts' all-universe quarterback Peyton Manning in 2007 cut a $2,300 check – as did his wife, Ashley -- to Republican presidential candidate and former Sen. Fred Thompson. Manning also contributed $2,000 to President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

More recently, semi-retired Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks contributed $4,800 to Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who's running for U.S. Senate in Florida. Buccaneers' quarterback Byron Leftwich also gave $1,000 to Crist.

And if NFL players are looking to financially support one of their own, a rookie option arose just this week: Retired Bills and Steelers tight end Jay Riemersma announced Monday he's running for Congress in Michigan as a Republican.

CRP Senior Researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report.

The chart below shows political contributions, by football team or league, to federal political candidates and committees between 1989 and 2009. Persons listing themselves as team officials, coaches, players or employees are included in team and league totals:

Team Total Democrats Republicans Dem % Repub %
San Diego Chargers $2,455,200 $40,773 $2,414,427 2% 98%
Houston Texans $623,456 $4,000 $615,256 1% 99%
Arizona Cardinals $337,096 $85,950 $251,146 25% 75%
Washington Redskins $323,000 $8,550 $314,450 3% 97%
National Football League $322,373 $224,798 $97,075 70% 30%
New York Jets $261,403 $26,011 $235,392 10% 90%
New Orleans Saints $257,913 $18,150 $239,763 7% 93%
St Louis Rams $234,800 $230,050 $4,750 98% 2%
Pittsburgh Steelers $229,307 $128,892 $100,415 56% 44%
Jacksonville Jaguars $201,066 $36,564 $164,502 18% 82%
Philadelphia Eagles $183,500 $156,400 $27,100 85% 15%
Dallas Cowboys $164,467 $29,600 $134,867 18% 82%
Minnesota Vikings $131,175 $14,600 $116,575 11% 89%
Kansas City Chiefs $130,300 $20,950 $109,350 16% 84%
Cincinnati Bengals $126,200 $1,750 $124,450 1% 99%
Cleveland Browns $125,526 $41,126 $84,400 33% 67%
New England Patriots $122,400 $88,200 $24,200 72% 20%
Indianapolis Colts $117,150 $56,150 $61,000 48% 52%
San Francisco 49ers $111,121 $93,015 $18,106 84% 16%
Denver Broncos $110,413 $36,850 $73,563 33% 67%
Miami Dolphins $108,001 $92,000 $15,751 85% 15%
Baltimore Ravens $92,471 $34,871 $57,600 38% 62%
Carolina Panthers $89,018 $34,500 $54,518 39% 61%
Atlanta Falcons $77,350 $25,950 $51,400 34% 66%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $71,883 $34,600 $36,583 48% 51%
Los Angeles Rams $52,250 $47,250 $5,000 90% 10%
United Football League $41,100 $41,100 $0 100% 0%
Buffalo Bills $38,506 $25,006 $13,500 65% 35%
Tennessee Titans $36,050 $4,450 $31,600 12% 88%
Detroit Lions $32,751 $20,750 $12,001 63% 37%
New York Giants $31,000 $8,700 $22,300 28% 72%
Chicago Bears $28,100 $13,050 $15,050 46% 54%
Seattle Seahawks $24,402 $13,000 $11,402 53% 47%
Green Bay Packers $8,750 $2,550 $6,200 29% 71%
Oakland Raiders $6,800 $4,050 $2,750 60% 40%
Pro Football Hall of Fame $6,400 $2,650 $3,750 41% 59%
NFL Network $6,000 $1,900 $4,100 32% 68%
NFL Properties $3,000 $3,000 $0 100% 0%
Arena Football League $3,000 $1,000 $2,000 33% 67%
Pro Arena Football $2,300 $2,300 $0 100% 0%
Los Angeles Raiders $2,000 $2,000 $0 100% 0%
Detroit Super Bowl XL Host Cmte $250 $250 $0 100% 0%

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Old 09-19-2009, 05:32 PM   #2
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No democrats in the NFL eh?
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Old 09-19-2009, 08:12 PM   #3
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It's their money, if they want to contribute to, campaign for, etc. a candidate of their choice, more power to them. They lose me though if they think their endorsement of a certain candidate means anything to me though.

Still trying to figure out what the relevance of this article is though, it's something that can be said about most industries if you did the same research. People with money often times donate to political campaigns. So the NFL donates more than other sports, those franchises are also a hell of a lot more valuable than other American sport franchises. 6 of the 10 most valuable sports teams in the world are NFL teams, the Yankess are in the mix, and then the other 3 are Man Utd, Real Madrid, and Arsenal.
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