Photo: Laura Ricketts: Christian Petersen/Getty Images; Joe Ricketts: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Tom Ricketts: Associated Press; Todd Ricketts: Associated Press; Pete Ricketts: Associated Press
The Most Interesting Dynasty in American Politics Today
Plutocrats in the News

The Most Interesting Dynasty in American Politics Today The Ricketts clan has clashing passions—and designs on greater power

By Photo: Laura Ricketts: Christian Petersen/Getty Images; Joe Ricketts: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images; Tom Ricketts: Associated Press; Todd Ricketts: Associated Press; Pete Ricketts: Associated Press

They’re not the obvious pick, but the most interesting dynasty in U.S. politics right now might be the Ricketts. Not content with merely buying elections, à la the Koch brothers, the family has a son who’s running for office himself. That makes them also a bit like the Clintons and Bushesexcept unlike the Clintons and Bushes, who try to take turns in the spotlight, the Ricketts have five members simultaneously going all-in for more influence. As they do so, they sometimes quarrel with each other over gay marriage, in the manner of the Cheneys. It’s a clan that produces enough colorful plotlines to fill three primetime ABC soaps.

JOE RICKETTS

THE PATERFAMILIAS

OCCUPATION:
FINANCIAL-SERVICES ENTREPRENEUR

Born to a poor Catholic family south of Omaha, he went on to make a fortune by founding the discount brokerage behemoth Ameritrade.

POLITICAL M.O.: PROFLIGACY

Ricketts Sr. famously pledged $10 million in 2012 to a fierce anti- Obama advertising blitz that dredged up the Jeremiah Wright controversy. When that incited outcry, he moderated his campaign’s tone; neither version produced the desired election outcome. Nor did the money he raised for Ken Cuccinelli last year.

PETE RICKETTS

THE CHOSEN SON

OCCUPATION:
FINANCIAL-SERVICES SCION TURNED THINK-TANK FOUNDER

After working as COO of Ameritrade, Pete established the free-market-promoting Platte Institute for Economic Research.

POLITICAL M.O.: PERENNIAL CANDIDACY

In 2006, he took on then–Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson and was throttled by 28 points. This year he’s running for Nebraska governor and faring better, having just sewn up the GOP nomination. Look for him soon at a tractor pull near you.

LAURA RICKETTS

THE MAVERICK

OCCUPATION:
EX-CORPORATE ATTORNEY, MINOR CIVIL RIGHTS ICON

Laura practiced law at Schiff Hardin, then became the first gay owner of a major sports team through her share of the Cubs deal her brother Tom struck.

POLITICAL M.O.: EQUALITY, PROMOTION OF

A major bundler for Democrats, she also acts as chair of lpac, a lesbian-backed political action committee, and serves on the boards of Lambda Legal and emily’s List.

TOM RICKETTS

THE CONSIGLIORE

OCCUPATION:
SPORTS EXEC

Tom serves as the chairman of the Chicago Cubs, added to the Ricketts empire through his orchestration in 2009.

POLITICAL M.O.: DIPLOMACY

A peacekeeper among agitators, Tom is thought to be more moderate in his politics. When his old man’s 2012 meddling became public, hurting the Cubs with the city’s Obama-friendly fans, Tom denounced racial attacks against the president and scrambled to remain in the good graces of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

TODD RICKETTS

THE QUIET ONE

OCCUPATION:
SMALL-BUSINESS MAN TURNED THINK-TANK INSTALLEE

The youngest sibling and an avid cyclist, Todd seemed content to run a chain of bike shops in suburban Chicago until being suddenly named CEO of Ending Spending, the family super PAC, last fall.

POLITICAL M.O.: CONSPICUOUS HUMILITY

Todd’s only real moment in the spotlight to date was cutting a stumblebum figure on the peon-for-a-week hidden-camera show “Undercover Boss,” during which he was supervised with growing dismay by an array of more competent Wrigley Field employees.

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