For the time being, Major League Baseball is suspending all political contributions. As Jake Seifert of The Associated Press reports, MLB revealed that decision Wednesday:
Major League Baseball is suspending all political contributions in the wake of last week’s invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob loyal to President Donald Trump, joining a wave of major corporations rethinking their efforts to lobby Washington.
“In light of the unprecedented events last week at the U.S. Capitol, MLB is suspending contributions from its Political Action Committee pending a review of our political contribution policy going forward,” the league said in a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Seifert’s piece is a good read for its discussion of how much money MLB has spent on lobbying ($669,375 to Senate and House candidates since the 2016 election cycle), who those donations have gone to (52.4 percent to Republican candidates, including two senators and nine representatives who opposed certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election), and what those donations have helped accomplish (particularly, an exemption in a 2018 omnibus spending bill that allowed minor league baseball teams to continue paying players far less than minimum wage). And it’s interesting to see MLB now reviewing their political contribution policy, especially considering that they’re doing so only after the legislative success they particularly wanted and especially considering that they’ve gone further than many corporations who have only stopped contributions to those who voted against certification of the presidential election results.
Of course, $669,375 isn’t that much in terms of MLB’s overall business. As per Forbes’ Mike Ozanian in December, baseball pulled in $4 billion in revenue even in the shortened 2020 season, and had negative $1 billion in operating income; $669,375 split over four years would be $167,343.75 per year, or 0.017 percent of that overall operating income figure. (For the record, MLB claims they lost more than that, while agent Scott Boras claims no MLB club actually lost money last year.) But it’s still a significant amount of money, especially when a lot of that money was spent on lobbying to ensure that players making as little as $5,500 per season didn’t qualify under minimum wage laws.
For reference, the federal minimum wage remains $7.25 per hour. That translates to just $15,080 per year for someone working 2,080 hours a year, or 40 hours each week. That wouldn’t be the exact gap to deal with in all cases here, as some states have higher minimum wages, and most MiLB seasons do not translate to 2,080 hours a year, but it’s notable that “minimum wage” isn’t all that high (and, federally, has not been increased since 2009). And yet, MLB spent hundreds of thousands of dollars largely to ensure that they wouldn’t have to pay it.
Now that they’ve got that, though, there probably is less immediate need for MLB to be contributing to political campaigns. And, thus, they can make a move like this and claim it’s a principled stand, even when it involves pulling donations from all representatives and senators, including those who had nothing to do with the claims that led to that invasion of the Capitol. It will be interesting to see if other pro sports leagues also decide to stop political donations, and if they do so as broadly as MLB, or if they take a more selective approach.