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Published — February 29, 2016

Chicago Cubs co-owner takes brickbat to Trump’s immigration record

Super PAC backed by Marlene Ricketts on mission to defeat The Donald


Days before a dozen states conduct their Super Tuesday nominating contests, one super PAC has made a six-figure national ad buy with one purpose: take down Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

This isn’t its first foray in doing so either.

Since the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, Our Principles PAC has spent nearly $4.2 million skewering Trump.

The latest ad airing knocks Trump for having once hired immigrants working in the United States illegally. The ad contrasts the billionaire businessman’s hiring record with his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric that, among other things, calls for the Mexican government to pay for a wall across the United States’ southern border.

“Trump makes big money off illegal immigrants,” the ad’s narrator says. “Can conservatives trust Donald Trump?”

The ad’s sponsor

Our Principles PAC formed in mid-January — days before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.

As a super PAC, Our Principles PAC has no limit on how much it may raise and spend. It almost instantaneously filled its coffers with millions of dollars.

But it’s not yet clear that the moneyed super PAC will see a return on investment, despite spending its millions on anti-Trump material.

“We have weakened him considerably,” Our Principles PAC founder Katie Packer told The Washington Post. “If we had more money and more time, it might have made more of a difference.”

Who’s behind it?

Our Principles PAC founder Katie Packer previously served as deputy campaign manager for Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential run. Romney himself is no fan of Trump, just today accusing Trump of “coddling … repugnant bigotry.”

Packer works at Burning Glass, an all-female Republican consulting firm that specializes in targeting messages to women voters. She is also a founder partner at consulting firm WWP Strategies, which once produced an ad for Romney’s presidential campaign.

Money in

The super PAC has one known major financial backer: Marlene Ricketts.

Ricketts donated $3 million to Our Principles PAC — nearly all of the money the group raised through January, according to the most recent report with the Federal Election Commission.

Ricketts is the wife of billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade. The Ricketts family also owns the Chicago Cubs.

Marlene Ricketts has spent the election cycle throwing money at most anyone standing between Trump and the Republican presidential nomination.

So far, she’s donated to various super PACs supporting seven different GOP candidates: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Marlene Ricketts gave the most — $4.9 million — to Unintimidated PAC, a super PAC that backed Gov. Scott Walker, who dropped out last year. Super PACs backing the other candidates have received a more modest sum: $10,000 each.

Together, Marlene and Joe Ricketts have donated millions of dollars to conservative efforts over the years. Joe Ricketts himself also leads super PAC ESA Fund, which in January aired ads against Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and its sister nonprofit. Otherwise, Ricketts has so far this election cycle only donated $100,000 to Unintimidated PAC.

Money out

So far, Our Principles PAC has spent nearly $4.2 million in efforts to derail Trump, according to federal independent expenditure records. These records must be filed immediately after such expenditures are made.

Our Principles PAC’s efforts this election include TV ads, digital ads and printed mailers. They’ve targeted voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina just before their respective caucuses and primaries. The latest anti-Trump ad flurry is different, airing nationally as opposed to zeroing in on specific Super Tuesday states.

Why it matters

Efforts by Our Principles PAC don’t appear significant enough to prevent Trump from a massive win on Super Tuesday, according to most recent polls.

The super PAC appears resigned to this outcome, but isn’t giving up: Just last week, Our Principles PAC founder Katie Packer urged fellow Republicans to donate money to her efforts. She also urged called on the remaining Republican presidential candidates — Cruz, Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — to coalesce into a single anti-Trump force.

Since the memo circulated last Monday, Conservative Solutions PAC — a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio — has started an anti-Trump campaign of its own. One recent ad criticized Trump’s refusal to disavow the endorsement of David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Club for Growth and American Future Fund, two other conservative organizations, have unleashed their own ads targeting Trump.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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