Politicians score big in the NFL — campaign contributions
Politicians have hit pay dirt in the National Football League, with some teams providing far more fertile turf than others.
The San Diego Chargers haven’t been much of a powerhouse on the field during the past 20 years.
But in the game of national politics, the Chargers have been a high-stakes participant, leading the league in campaign contributions during that time frame.
San Diego team owners, officials and players combined to contribute $2.4 million to U.S. congressional and presidential candidates since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions.
According to the center, that’s four times more than the next team, the Houston Texans, $623,456, followed by the Arizona Cardinals, $337,096, and Washington Redskins, $323,000.
With few exceptions, most of the money went to Republicans.
Officials and employees at The National Football League, however, favored Democrats. They gave $244,798 to the members of the party that now controls the White House and Congress, compared to $97,075 to Republicans.
Last year, the NFL, a multibillion-dollar enterprise, created a political action committee — Gridiron PAC.
They also opened an office in Washington, where they are better positioned to lobby members of Congress as well as the White House.
“Like any large business, a presence in Washington is a good thing to have,” said Jerry Miller, the NFL’s vice president for government relations and policy.
Miller made the comment in an interview with Capital Eye, a publication of the Center for Responsive Politics.
Miller was also quoted as saying that the NFL lobbies on a variety of issues that interest the league, including labor law, gambling and communications.
Last year, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was the recipient of contributions from a number of big names from the gridiron.
They included Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, $4,600, Chicago Bears Coach Lovie Smith, $2,300, and Cincinnati Bengals safety Roy Williams, $2,300.
On the other side of the political field, Chargers coach Norv Turner gave $2,300 to Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid contributed the same amount to Mitt Romney, one of McCain’s vanquished challengers for the party’s presidential nomination.
An individual can’t contribute more than $2,300 to a candidate in the primary campaign and $2,300 in the general campaign.
NFL players could donate this year to one of their own.
Retired Buffalo Bill and Pittsburgh Steeler tight end Jay Riemersma is running for Congress as a Republican.
Photo credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell (Tony Gonzalez celebrates score in Sept. 13 football game)