MLB Adding Oversight To Political Donations In Wake Of Controversy
MLB will add extra layers of oversight to the league’s political donations in the wake of the controversial contribution to the reelection campaign for U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), league Commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday. MLB donated $5,000 to Hyde-Smith days after she said she would attend a public hanging, and ultimately the league asked for its money back. “We did agree to make the donation, at the point in time the individual agreed to do it he was not aware of the comments,” Manfred said, referring to the league’s lobbyist who made the decision. “Whether he should have, or shouldn’t have been, he wasn’t as a factual matter, and that’s not a good thing from our perspective. Even more troubling is, we should have been more prompt in terms of requesting the return of the donation. Already this week we put in place new procedures to ensure that we don’t have a problem like this again.” He added, "We were simply not steadfast enough in our oversight of this, and on this one, we came up short." Previously, donation decisions were commonly made unilaterally by MLB’s DC lobbyist. Now, extra oversight will be added, Manfred said (Kaplan & Fisher, THE DAILY).
LET'S GET POLITICAL: Manfred said that the lobbyists for the league’s PAC, a small group of staffers, have "largely operated with autonomy" in DC (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/27). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques notes MLB's PAC is "designed to protect the league's interests in Washington, be it maintaining its antitrust exemption or generating support for bills such as the 'Save America's Pastime' act, which largely served to enable the league to continue suppressing salaries of minor-league players." Its donations in the '18 cycle "showed a slight lean toward Republican House candidates, but a larger edge to Democratic Senate candidates." A vast majority of these contributions go "virtually unnoticed." However, MLB -- which has "long leaned on the legacy of Jackie Robinson integrating baseball to position itself as a bastion of social justice -- could not ignore the blowback when its money found its way to Hyde-Smith's coffers" (USA TODAY, 11/28). ESPN's Buster Olney noted ballparks have been "built with public funds," and MLB is "very interested in the labor laws." Olney: "They have a lot of issues where they constantly push back." He noted MLB bases some of its donations in Congress around "people who they believe really like baseball and will favor baseball" ("OTL," ESPN, 11/27).
TAKING IT BACK: SI.com's Jack Dickey wrote MLB's excuses bought it "hardly any reprieve." Some wondered whether the league’s PAC could "honestly hand out four-figure checks so easily" (SI.com, 11/27).