Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts will spend $10 million on television ads and voter-outreach efforts to help Republican challenger Mitt Romney defeat President Barack Obama, aides to Ricketts said Monday.
The former TD Ameritrade executive's return to the presidential race comes four months after Romney repudiated an ad pitch made to Ricketts' group that resurrected questions about Obama's ties to Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., a Chicago preacher known for racially charged sermons.
Ricketts rejected that proposal and Ending Spending Action Fund, a super-political action committee funded almost entirely by him, has been focusing on other federal elections, including that of Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican running for Senate. Ricketts will spend another $2 million on congressional races before Election Day, his aides said.
Brian Baker, president of Ending Spending, said Ricketts always intended to stay involved in the presidential race and that with just a few weeks to go until Nov. 6, this is the ideal time to release new ads. The first run will begin this week on national cable stations, Baker said.
"We've been working on this for months," he said.
The super-PAC's new presidential ad campaign, reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, focuses on voters who switched to Romney after backing Obama in 2008. The $10 million pays for television and online ads, direct mail and door-to-door voter contact, said Danielle Hagen, a spokeswoman for Ending Spending. Baker called it a "surround-sound approach."
"We want to reach people wherever we can," he said. Sarah Taylor Fagen, who worked with Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, is leading Ending Spending's efforts to target undecided voters, Baker said.
Federal Election Commission records show the Ricketts super-PAC is no longer working with Fred Davis, the Hollywood ad producer who wrote the Wright-themed proposal, in favor of Victory Film Group, the Santa Monica, California-based company behind "The Hope and the Change." That 60-minute movie production includes interviews with people identifying themselves as disaffected Obama voters and was paid for by Citizens United, a super-PAC that supports Republicans.
Ricketts' super-PAC paid Victory Film Group $141,300 last month, FEC records show. Baker said his relationship with Victory Film and its head, Stephen K. Bannon, dates back several years. Victory produced an ad campaign for Ending Spending's interviews with Republican presidential primary contenders earlier this election cycle.
Ricketts' involvement in the presidential race comes at a time when his baseball club is seeking political and financial support for renovations to Chicago's Wrigley Field -- where Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a close ally of Obama's. His Ending Spending super-PAC, and companion nonprofit, are aimed at cutting what they call wasteful government spending, particularly on congressional earmarks.