Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Athletes, Teams Donate Big to Political Campaigns

Sports teams – as well as their owners, executives, and athletes – are some of the nation's most loyal political contributors.  And since most teams receive some sort of public subsidy, certain donations also raise questions about how the contributors are influencing lawmakers.

I analyzed thousands of financial records from federal, state, and local elections offices for WTSP/10 Investigates to follow how millions of sports dollars are pouring into political campaigns.

"What these owners are asking for...is hundreds of millions of dollars, so anyone would take that return on investment," said former legislator Lars Hafner, D-St. Petersburg.

Individual donors include former local stars like Derrick Brooks, Dave Andreychuk, Wade Boggs, and Shelton Quarles; current executives like Rays President Matt Silverman and Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, as well as all of the owners of Tampa Bay's major pro franchises.

Rays owner Stu Sternberg has favored Democratic candidates in the past, but the Rays recently started donating more money to state-level Republicans. Hafner suggests Sternberg isn't shifting political leanings, but is seeking access to state's dominant party.

"The party that has the majority gets to pass legislation…and reaps the benefit of those dollars," Hafner said.

Yet the Rays' $15,000 contributions to Republican lawmakers and their committees this year pale in comparison to the donations of their fellow stadium subsidy-seeking counterparts. In recent years, the Florida Panthers and their subsidiaries have contributed $124,000 to state-level GOP campaigns; Miami Dolphins-led organizations contributed $83,000; the Orlando Magic gave $37,000; and the Jacksonville Jaguars forked out $28,800.

To see the entire list and interactive database, continue reading here.

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