February 06, 2016

NFL Owners Play in the Big Game of Big Money Politics

By John Morgan

National Football League (NFL) owners kicked off the 2015 season by donating nearly $3 million to presidential super PACs. Now, as the Super Bowl draws another season to a close and the presidential primary season is officially underway, team owners are still giving big to their favorite candidates.

In September, CREW examined campaign committee, PAC and super PAC contributions from NFL team owners and found that they gave $2,827,804 to 2016 presidential candidates in the first half of 2015. When the latest round of super PAC contribution data was released on January 31st, CREW looked to see if those owners who donated in the first half of 2015 continued to give to presidential super PACs, finding that since the end of June they contributed an additional $1,612,500 to outside groups supporting members of the presidential field.

Most of this total comes from Robert McNair, a GOP mega-donor and the billionaire owner of the Houston Texans. In August, he donated $500,000 to Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) Conservative Solutions PAC. He also gave $500,000 to Pursing America’s Greatness, the super PAC of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s failed presidential campaign, and $500,000 to Conservative Authentic Responsive Leadership for You and for America (CARLY for America), the super PAC supporting former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Mr. McNair had previously given the same amount to super PACs supporting former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott WalkerSen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson pitched in another $100,000 to former Louisiana governor and presidential also-ran Bobby Jindal’s Believe Again super PAC, after donating $25,000 to it earlier in 2015.  Finally, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, gave $12,500 to Sen. Graham’s Security is Strength super PAC. He made the contribution a little over a week before the South Carolina senator dropped out of the race.

While the NFL offseason starts on Monday, the presidential primaries have just begun and the owners still have plenty of time to get into the money game. 

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