A front page article in this week’s USA Today raised eyebrows to many fans regarding the amount of donations that owners and executives of Major League Baseball have made to presidential candidates (Baseball bosses play on political field). As reported by Fredreka Schouten and David Jackson:
Some of Major League Baseball's principal owners, front-office executives, their families and even players have donated more than $267,000 to their favorite presidential contenders, according to an analysis by USA TODAY.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's $4,600 went to Democrat Chris Dodd. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player, backed Republican Rudy Giuliani with $2,300. Giuliani, a diehard Yankees fan, has gotten grief this week for saying he's rooting for the Red Sox.
By giving to candidates, "the owners of Major League Baseball are going to try to curry favor with the political leadership," said Craig Holman of the liberal-leaning watchdog group Public Citizen.
The article gave more visibility to how MLB interacts with the political process on the presidential candidate level, but the real story is how MLB and its lobbying effort functions.
As I reported in July of this year (Money, Politics, and MLB's Political Action Committee):
With MLB always cognizant of their anti-trust status, along with hot-button issues such as performance-enhancing drug use in the sport, and how baseball has approached broadcast packages such as MLB Extra Innings, and the upcoming MLB Network in 2009, lobbying has become a key focal point for baseball.
Officially given the longwinded titled of Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball Political Action Committee, or the acronym MLBPAC, the Washington, DC based wing of MLB has funneled large amounts of contributions to lobby those in Congress.
The money comes almost exclusively from the MLB ownership brethren, or in some cases, owners wives, into MLBPAC, which then flows into the coffers of political parties and their members on both the Democratic and Republican sides of the aisle – nearly evenly.
On top of this, there are contributions from the MLBPA and Minor League baseball – all affiliated with MLB.
The article then lists a whos who of information via The Center For Responsive Politics regarding money flowing in and out of MLBPAC.
To add to this data, we offer up an outstanding paper by Erik Porse, Adjunct Professor at George Mason University who teaches Public and International Affairs. In his in-depth paper, MLB and Lobbying: A Perennial Favorite, Porse writes:
Major League Baseball and the U.S. Congress maintain a unique relationship, dating back more than 100 years to the initial struggles over authority in professional baseball. Neither entirely adversarial nor friendly, the two organizations mutually exist in a battle to leverage power and influence within the other’s house. After the courts tasked Congress with the job of overseeing MLB, Congress became the primary authority in determining the autonomy of the league in operational matters. Over the past 15 years, however, MLB became cognizant of the need for a substantial lobbying influence within Congressional halls, and an explosion in lobbying dollars on the part of the league, its executives, and its teams has added a new dimension to the interactions. In light of the continued interest of the U.S. Congress in MLB, including the issues of steroids and the antitrust exemption, understanding the lobbying influence of the league is revealing.
Porse provides extensive data, including total contributions from the offices of MLB (including MLBPAC), as well as teams and executives from 1997-2004. A separate table lists lobbying expenditures from MLB and the MLBPA from 1998 to 2005.
What’s to be learned from the data provided, and the article from USA Today is that MLB and politicians are constantly in touch. It may be more evident than it has been in some time when former Senator and current Red Sox board member George Mitchell releases his report on the use of performance enhancing drugs shortly after the World Series. MLB may, yet again, look to use its considerable lobbying prowess in an effort to deflect intervention from Congress into how baseball conducts business.
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also an author for Baseball Prospectus.and is an available writer for other media outlets.
He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.