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Three billionaires, including Chicago Cubs owners, top donor list for Scott Walker super PAC
election 2016

Three billionaires, including Chicago Cubs owners, top donor list for Scott Walker super PAC

From the Scott Walker's short-lived presidential campaign series
Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker talks with Miss Rodeo Iowa Hannah Hilsabeck, right, and Miss Sidney Iowa Rodeo Chelsey Anderson, center, during a campaign stop Friday in Sidney, Iowa.

Three billionaires — a Wisconsin roofing magnate and a couple who co-own the Chicago Cubs — are the top contributors to a super PAC supporting Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign, according to a report filed Friday.

Joe Ricketts and his wife, Marlene, gave a combined $5 million to Unintimidated PAC, the report shows.

Diane Hendricks, who owns Beloit-based ABC Supply, also gave $5 million.

Together, the Ricketts’ and Hendricks’ contributions account for half of the $20 million raised by Unintimidated PAC in its first quarter in existence — a haul that put Walker’s super PAC in the top tier among Republican presidential contenders.

Unintimidated PAC and a separate nonprofit founded by Walker, Our American Revival, announced earlier this month that they raised a combined sum of more than $26 million.

On Friday, financial reports became available for the groups, providing the first detailed look at their spending and fundraising.

The Ricketts family — Joe and Marlene and their four children — own 95 percent of the Cubs and Wrigley Field. Joe Ricketts is founder of TD Ameritrade. Son Todd Ricketts helps lead Walker’s national campaign fundraising efforts.

Hendricks is a longtime Walker donor who became infamous to his Democratic opponents for being the person to whom Walker spoke, in a widely circulated video, about a “divide and conquer” strategy for unions.

Other big donations to Walker’s super PAC include:

  • $2.5 million from businessman Richard Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth;
  • $1 million from Access Industries, a privately held New York conglomerate whose founder and chairman is Len Blavatnik;
  • $500,000 from Bernard Marcus, a Georgia businessman who co-founded Home Depot;
  • $500,000 from Robert McNair Sr., chairman and CEO of the NFL’s Houston Texans.

Unintimidated PAC is headed by Keith Gilkes, a longtime Walker adviser who ran his 2010 gubernatorial campaign and served as his chief of staff.

Our American Revival, a so-called “527” nonprofit group, raised $6.21 million in the first six months of 2015, its IRS report shows.

Its top donor was Willis Johnson — the Tennessee founder of Copart, an online vehicle auction provider — who gave $500,000. Copart contributed an additional $100,000, and the company’s CEO, Jay Adair, gave $50,000.

Other big donations to the nonprofit came in the form of:

  • $250,000 from Jeanne Sinquefield, who, along with her husband Rex Sinquefield, are among the top Republican donors in Missouri;
  • $250,000 from Access Industries;
  • $200,000 from Uihlein.

Walker’s super PAC fundraising was near the front of the pack for GOP presidential candidates. Many of their super PACs reported their fundraising totals on Friday, the Federal Election Commission deadline to do so.

All super PACs trail the one aligned with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose Right to Rise super PAC raised a whopping $103 million.

Super PACs backing Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas raised about $38 million.

Unintimidated PAC staked a fundraising lead over super PACs for many other Republican contenders, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Super PACs differ from candidates’ campaigns in that they can spend and raise unlimited sums and can accept contributions from corporations and labor unions, as well as individuals.

Candidates are barred by law from coordinating with super PACs.

But it may not always work that way in practice, as the legal boundary between candidates and super PACs has become less and less distinct. The FEC rarely, if ever, enforces the law, and candidates increasingly are willing to test the limits of what they can do.

Meanwhile, for Walker and other presidential hopefuls, the chase for big money continues. Walker is expected to court the kings of the GOP top-dollar donors, brothers David and Charles Koch, at an event this weekend in southern California.

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