Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts is replacing an elderly casino magnate accused of sexual misconduct in a high-ranking position in the Republican Party—but relax, it’s not the one you’re probably thinking of.
This one would be Steve Wynn, a different billionaire Vegas boss than the one currently residing in the White House. Wynn resigned as Republican National Committee finance chairman over the weekend after reports that he’d sexually harassed employees and paid $7.5 million to settle claims by a manicurist that he forced her to have sex with him led to a Nevada Gaming Board investigation.
The CEO of Wynn Resorts had been the perfect symbol for the Trump-era GOP. Wynn made his fortune erecting hotel casinos like the Mirage; now it’s the Republican Party’s soul that feels like the real illusion in the desert. When the chips were down in the 2016 election, the Tea Partiers and country club types willingly traded in their brand of aw-shucks, church-friendly conservatism for Donald Trump and the sleaze kings of Sin City. Who better to raise money for this decadent new GOP than Wynn—a shady tycoon with porcelain teeth, tanned skin, and unnaturally dark hair, a 76-year-old trying to appear 35?
Now enter Ricketts from the Cubs’ ownership bull pen to replace Wynn in the lead fund-raising position for the RNC. Todd is something of a cipher—arguably his most prominent starring role ever was getting fired as a covert Wrigley Field hot dog vendor on the reality TV show Undercover Boss in 2010. On Tuesday CNN and other news sources repeatedly used the phrase “successful businessman” on Tuesday to describe him, but as with any rich kid, it’s difficult to know how to measure individual success when daddy’s megamillions are in the picture. Just ask Trump.
Regardless, since Joe Ricketts, Todd’s billionaire father and fellow right-wing activist, anointed him the heir of a nonprofit called Ending Spending and put him in charge of its super-PAC arm, the ESAFund, in 2012, Todd has raised a massive amount of funding for extreme right-wing Republican candidates.
That didn’t always mean Trump. In the run-up to 2016 Todd chaired fund-raising efforts for Scott Walker’s doomed at a presidential bid and hosted events to support him, including a barbecue held at Todd’s home in Wilmette. He even scheduled a Walker fund-raiser at Wrigley Field for October 2015, but it was canceled after the Wisconsin governor dropped out. And not long after Trump became the front-runner for the nomination, Todd Ricketts switched teams. In the months leading up to the November election, he helped raise $66 million for Future 45 and 45Committee, pro-Trump Super PACs. This fund-raising success makes Todd valuable to Trump and the Republican Party plutocrats, which is likely why Trump nominated Ricketts as his deputy commerce secretary last year.
Todd ultimately had to withdraw from consideration after struggling to disentangle his wealthy family’s complicated finances in a manner that would satisfy the Office of Government Ethics, but now he’s being plugged into a job free from some of those constraints. As the RNC’s credentialed bag man, he’ll presumably be free to keep raising millions in “dark money” to fund ultraconservative causes like the just-passed Trump tax overhaul while doing, well, whatever it is he does with the Cubs.
And speaking of the $1.5 trillion tax “reform” Congress passed in December, Papa Joe Ricketts blogged recently that it “proves that Trump is “tilting our system back towards the ‘forgotten man,’ the people who make up the great American middle class that the Washington elite have all too often ignored.” But nearly every sober analysis that crunches the actual numbers shows that it’s a grift, another giant victory in the decades-long class war against the poor and working classes that favor the Rickettses, the Trumps, and the Steve Wynns of the world.
For the ultrarich, it’s a lucrative time to play ball.