10 News Investigators: Political donations from athletes

9:10 AM, Jan 31, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- With Florida's biggest day on the political calendar coming just days away from the biggest day on the football calendar, the 10 News Investigators analyzed the relationship between sports and political contributions.

Focusing on public campaign documents gathered from local, state, and federal offices, the Investigators put together a database of more than 400 political contributions. Included in the data are donations from Tampa Bay athletes, coaches, team owners, and front office executives.

SEARCH: Local athletes' political donations
Disclaimer: Not all contributions in database were made while donor worked for local team.

While former Tampa Bay stars like Warren Sapp, Dave Andrychuk, and Wade Boggs have all made contributions to local politicians, it has been members of the Bucs who have dominated the donating in recent years. 

Among local athletes, no player gave more since 2007 than Derrick Brooks, who sent two $2,400 donations (federal maximum) to Charlie Crist's senatorial campaign.  Other prominent sports figures who gave matching donations to Crist include Bucs owner Bryan Glazer, Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg, and Rays president Matt Silverman.

Below are Tampa-area athletes' donations from the last five years:

Athlete Team Year Donation Recipient Party
Barber, Ronde Bucs 2008 $2,500 Obama, Barack D
Brooks, Derrick Bucs 2009 $2,400 Crist, Charlie I
Brooks, Derrick Bucs 2009 $2,400 Crist, Charlie I
Clayton, Michael Bucs 2010 $2,000 Meek, Kendrick D
Clayton, Michael Bucs 2011 $500 Greco, Dick D
Clayton, Michael Bucs 2010 $2,000 Hastings, Alcee D
Faine, Jeff Bucs 2010 $500 Sink, Alex D
Faine, Jeff Bucs 2011 $1,000 Nelson, Bill D
Huff, Aubrey Rays 2010 $500 Huff, Fonda NPA
June, Cato Bucs 2008 $1,000 Obama, Barack D
Michaels, Jason Phillies 2010 $300 Hagan, Ken R
Miller, Justin Rays 2011 $500 Rice, Everett R
Oben, Roman Bucs 2007 $500 Perez, Rafael R
Quarles, Shelton Bucs 2007 $250 Margarella, Frank
Winslow Jr., Kellen Bucs 2011 $1,500 Obama, Barack D
Source: 2007-2011; OpenSecrets.org, Fla. Dept. of State, local elections offices


But in what shouldn't be a surprise, players' contributions are usually dwarfed by those from teams' front offices.

The Investigators traced $54,600 in political contributions from the Glazer family since 2007, more than 90 percent of which went to Democrats.

Stuart Sternberg has been more selective in his donations, giving to just a few local candidates.  And Jeff Vinik, who recently bought the Lightning, has yet to donate to a Florida candidate.

But former principal owner of the Rays, Vince Naimoli, has been a loyal check writer for Republicans, donating the majority of his $14,950 in political contributions since 2007 to Republicans.

SEARCH: Local athletes' political donations

Below are contributions from local teams, athletes, coaches, and the executives who identify themselves as employees: 

Team Political Donations Democrat % Republican % Other/NPA  % PAC  %
Buccaneers $156,400 $61,300 39% $2,000 1% $9,600  6%  $83,250 53%
Lightning $37,033 $6,200 17% $18,858 51% $100  1%  $11,875 32%
Phillies $1,500 $0 0% $1,500 100% $0  0%  $0 0%
Rays $190,385 $10,850 6% $84,400 44% $11,050  6%  $84,585 44%
Storm $3,875 $0 0% $2,250 58% $1,625 42%  $0 0%
Yankees $2,450 $0 0% $2,450 100% $0  0%  $0 0%
Source: 2007-2011; OpenSecrets.org, Fla. Dept. of State, local elections offices


The biggest portion of teams' and executives' donations often go toward Political Action Committees (PACs), which can easily combine donations on a large scale and wield leverage. PACs also lobby legislators on a number of issues of interest to their donors.

Both the Rays ($50,000) and Buccaneers ($57,800) made large donations to Moving Hillsborough Forward, the PAC dedicated to building support for the light rail referendum in 2010.

The ownership of the Rays and Bucs also have sent tens of thousands of dollars in recent years to their respective leagues' PACs, the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office PAC and National Football League PAC.

Among the issues the leagues lobby:

  • Television rights
  • The MLB's anti-trust exemption
  • The NFL's tax-free status
  • Labor issues

Below is a list of federal lobbying expenditures, by league, in 2011:

League Potential Issues 2011 Lobbying Expendatures
NFL Blackouts, stadiums, tax exemptions, labor $1,620,000
MLB Anti-trust exemption, labor issues $520,000
Ultimate Fighting Champ. Sports betting, regulations $410,000
Bowl Champ. Series NCAA football playoff $350,000
PGA Tour Tax exemptions, First Tee program funding $310,000
US Olympic Cmte Visa standards for visiting athletes, Paralympic Military program funding $240,000
NCAA Amatuer athlete regulations $170,000
Int'l Speedway Tax incentives $150,000
US Olympic Cmte/US Anti-Doping Agency Drug-testing  $120,000
Others $447,000
Source: OpenSecrets.org


To track more money-in-politics issues, visit OpenSecrets.org.

Find 10 News Investigator Noah Pransky on Facebook or on Twitter. Send your story tips to noah@wtsp.com.

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