CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — After years of pumping millions of dollars into conservative campaigns and causes to influence economic policies, Cubs board member Todd Ricketts is moving up to the major leagues of government, chosen on Wednesday by President-elect Donald Trump to be Deputy Commerce Secretary.
Trump announced his intention to nominate Ricketts and two other key members of his economic team, turnaround specialist Wilbur Ross for Commerce Secretary and former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood mogul Steve Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary.
Mnuchin was the finance director for Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump, the unique outsider who promised to drain the Washington swamp, picked establishment mega GOP donors and fundraisers for these top fiscal posts.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that Ricketts was in line for the No. 2 spot at Commerce. Current Commerce Sec. Penny Pritzker, a Chicagoan, was the finance chair for President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Trump gave a hat-tip to the Cubs World Series win when he said in a statement that Ricketts “is an immensely successful businessman with unparalleled knowledge of the finance industry.”
“As Deputy Commerce Secretary he will help us cut waste and streamline government so that it works for the people of America. The incredible job he and the Ricketts family did in the purchase and turnaround of the Chicago Cubs — one perfect step after another, leading to the World Championship, is what I want representing our people. I am very proud to have him on our team,” Trump said.
“Advancing practical policies that promote economic opportunity is critical to making America great again,” Ricketts said in a statement.
Todd Ricketts, a Wilmette resident, oversees the political operations of the GOP wing of the Ricketts family, becoming increasingly more active and public in the political arena in the past few years.
In 2013, Ricketts took the baton from his father, billionaire Joe Ricketts, and became CEO of organizations the senior Ricketts founded to advocate for conservative fiscal policies and reducing the size of government: Ending Spending’s super PAC and its nonprofit advocacy arm.
The Trump team also took note of that in announcing Ricketts’ new job.
“Ricketts is committed to promoting the values of fiscal responsibility and educating taxpayers on wasteful and excessive government spending. He is the son of Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and has years of hands-on experience in the finance industry. Like President-elect Trump, Mr. Ricketts will use this knowledge to fix the broken Washington D.C. system, keep jobs in the United States and spur job growth,” the transition operation said in a statement.
“Todd’s experience as a director of TD Ameritrade and as a small business owner gives him an appreciation of the policies we need to spur job growth, foster innovation and encourage entrepreneurship in our country. I admire Todd’s commitment to public service and am pleased he will play a leading role in generating stronger economic growth in the United States. Todd brings to Washington the passion and skills to provide better jobs for more Americans,” Ken Griffin, founder and CEO of Citadel and a mega GOP donor, said in a statement.
During the Republican primary, Todd Ricketts led an anti-Trump charge, fueled with funds from his activist parents, triggering Trump’s ire and a Twitter threat. Once it was clear Trump would be the GOP nominee, he became an Illinois Trump delegate and the leader of a pro-Trump super PAC.
A graduate of Loyola University, Ricketts has varied business interests, from his “Higher Gear” bike store in Wilmette to his position on the TD Ameritrade board. The Ricketts family are large shareholders of the company Joe Ricketts founded in 1975.
Ricketts and his three siblings are on the Cubs board: Pete is the GOP governor of Nebraska; Laura is a major Democratic donor and fundraiser who oversees LPAC, a major lesbian super PAC; and Tom is the board chairman.
The team is owned through a family trust seeded by their billionaire parents, Joe and Marlene Ricketts. A source close to Todd Ricketts said it was not clear yet how the impending Commerce Department appointment will affect his role with the Cubs, and he is exploring how to proceed.
Craig Holman, an ethics specialist with Public Citizen, a watchdog group, told me that Ricketts may not have to divest himself from the Cubs.
“Divestiture is required when there is a direct and substantial conflict of interest with official duties,” Holman said. “Owning a baseball team does not reach that threshold for Deputy Secretary of Commerce. He will have to forfeit any directorships on corporate boards and place his holdings in a blind trust. If any official action before Commerce directly affects professional baseball, he would be expected to recuse himself.”Tweets by @lynnsweet