Root for the Home Team? MLB Commish Chooses NY Over Penn Politicians

Nonprofit: Politically, Major League Baseball PAC in a "New York State of mind."

October 30, 2009, 2:58 PM

Oct. 30, 2009— -- As commissioner of a major sport, it would be considered poor taste for baseball chief Bud Selig to side with the New York Yankees when their World Series battle with the Philadelphia Phillies resumes on Saturday night.

But when it comes to politics, the commissioner is in a New York state of mind, says a non-profit research group that tracks political donations, and Philadelphia's fans – infamous for booing and pelting Santa Claus with snow balls – may not be pleased.

Since its formation in 2002, the Major League Baseball Commissioner's Office Political Action Committee has donated more than twice as much money to federal political candidates from New York state than from Pennsylvania, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by the Center for Responsive Politics released this week.

"Not to extend the sports metaphor too far, but like in baseball, you want to hire the best players that you possibly can in order to win as much as you can, chief example being the New York Yankees," said David Levinthal, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. "Same thing goes with politics. If you want to get what you want as an organization, if you want to influence politicians, you're going to try to put your money where you think you have the best chance of winning."

The PAC donated money to 14 candidates from New York, most notably Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), who each hold congressional chairmanships.

Schumer, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary immigration subcommittee, raked in the most of the commissioner's PAC money with $9,500 in donations. Towns took second among New York politicians, receiving $9,000 in donations, according to CRP data.

Since 2002, the MLB Commissioner's Office PAC donated $51,136 to federal candidates from New York, compared with $22,000 to candidates from Pennsylvania, according to CRP. Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, who defected from the Republican Party earlier this year, took in more than half of those donations, at $11,500, the data showed.

"MLB's headquarters are in New York. And the league may very well just have more relationships with those up in New York," said Levinthal. "It's not to say they're cheering for the Yankees over the Phillies. But they're definitely more in a New York state of mind, at least politically speaking."

Major League Baseball PAC

The MLB Commissioner's Office PAC was formed six years ago as the sport endured a number of potentially crippling controversies, including the threat of a player's strike and fan anger over the possible contraction of two teams as the sport grappled with how to improve competitive balance between large and small market clubs.

In the last four election cycles, the MLB Commissioner's Office PAC has donated more to Democrats than Republicans, with the gap growing dramatically for the 2008 and 2010 elections. According to CRP, Democrats got $2 for every $1 a Republican got from the PAC in 2008.

As the midterm elections approach, the MLB Commissioner's Office PAC has given 72 percent of its donations to Democrats, CRP said.

Representatives of Major League Baseball did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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