MLB to vet campaign contributions more carefully
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks during a news conference at MLB headquarters in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. | Seth Wenig/AP

NEW YORK (AP)—Major League Baseball will put in place new procedures for vetting political contributions after giving $5,000 to Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican senator from Mississippi, and then asking for the money back following her controversial remarks.

MLB’s political action committee donated $472,500 from the start of 2017 through this Oct. 17, according to Federal Election Commission records. Among the distributions were two $2,500 contributions to Hyde-Smith’s Senate campaign on June 26 and Sept. 24 this year.

“Our lobbyists had a lot of discretion as to what they were doing, particularly with contributions of that size, and there’s just going to be additional oversight here in New York,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday. “We did not review in advance contributions of that size.”

MLB intends to have its legislative affairs committee discuss new procedures before making any decisions.

A video showed Hyde-Smith praising a supporter this month by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Opponents characterized the comment as insensitive given Mississippi’s history of racially motivated lynching. Hyde-Smith, who defeated Democrat Mike Espy in Tuesday’s runoff election, said her remark was “an exaggerated expression of regard.” More than a week after the video’s release, she said she apologized to “anyone that was offended” but also said the remark was used as a “weapon” against her.

Hyde-Smith was seen in another video talking about making voting difficult for “liberal folks,” and a photo circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir, a beachside museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, that was the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Hyde-Smith’s victory made her the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi. She was appointed to temporarily succeed Sen. Thad Cochran after he retired in April and will complete the final two years of Cochran’s term. Espy was seeking to become Mississippi’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

Manfred did not want to comment on Charles Johnson, one of the San Francisco Giants’ principal owners, and his wife Ann each making a contribution to Hyde-Smith for $2,700, the individual maximum.

“The Giants have more than 30 owners,” team president Larry Baer said in a statement Monday. “Just like our fans, they come from different backgrounds and have their own political views. Many give to Democratic causes, many to Republican causes and some refrain from politics altogether. Neither I nor anyone else at the Giants can control who any of our owners support politically, just as we cannot and should not control whom any of our employees support politically.”


Ronald Blum
Ronald Blum

Baseball writer for the Associated Press.