By Amanda Costikyan Jones
WASHINGTON – At least one tradition is not likely to change with the sale of the Washington Redskins.
Like the late Jack Kent Cooke before them, the apparent winners in the bidding war for the Redskins spend relatively little of their fortunes on politics.
Federal Election Commission filings show that Daniel Snyder and his partners, Howard and Edward Milstein, have given a combined total of $73,700 since 1993, including contributions from the Milsteins’ wives.
That pales in comparison to the $495,000 given by Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and his wife, Georgia, according to FEC reports.
Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals owner Abe Pollin and his wife, Irene, gave $168,750 during the same time period.
Mention the Milsteins and Snyder in political circles, and the response is likely to be underwhelming.
“I’m not familiar with the names,” said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Melissa Ratcliffe.
Republican National Committee spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said he “really hadn’t heard of him (Snyder) before” the Redskins bid.
Snyder is CEO of Bethesda-based Snyder Communications Inc. and is estimated to be worth about $100 million. The Milstein family owns Emigrant Savings Bank, reportedly worth billions of dollars, as well as the largest real estate brokerage in New York City.
The three men have placed a reported high bid of $800 million for the Redskins. That bid is scheduled to be presented Thursday to a committee of National Football League owners in the first step toward finalizing the sale of the team from Cooke’s estate.
If the Milsteins and Snyder do choose to keep a low profile in the world of political giving, they will be following in a time-honored Redskins tradition.
Cooke, who died in 1997, had not made a federal political contribution since 1990, when he gave $1,000 to the successful effort to re-elect Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore. Cooke had given just $10,000 total since 1979.
Spokesmen for the prospective new owners brushed aside questions about their political giving.
“We don’t comment on political donations or the philosophy behind them or the amount,” said Gary Lewi, a spokesman for the Milstein family.
And Karl Swanson said Snyder wants to “lay low” while the team sale is still up in the air. He might comment on his political giving later, Swanson said, but “not right now.”
In the meantime, Snyder and the Milsteins remain an enigma in political circles.
Mark Grossman, who handles special projects for the New York State Democratic Committee, considers himself an expert on the ins and outs of politics on Long Island, where the Milsteins own a large stake in the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders. But Grossman said he has “never interacted with them in Long Island politics.”
Jim Burton, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said Snyder “was a surprise to me.” And Robert Miller, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, echoed that theme.
“I don’t know him (Snyder); I don’t know anything about him,” he said. “I wish he would think about us, because we sure could use the help …. (But) politics may not be anything that he’s interested in.”
Snyder’s only political contributions since 1993 went to the RNC and totaled $11,000. The Milsteins’ spending was more scattered.
Howard Milstein and his wife, Abby, handed out a total of $36,150 to a Democratic Party committee, a political action committee with no party affiliation and 21 different candidates for office. Most, but not all, were Democrats.
Edward Milstein and his wife, Robin, gave $26,550 to a similar combination of recipients.
The totals for the Angeloses and Pollins include substantial amounts of “soft money” — money that is given to non-federal campaign committees and is therefore not subject to contribution limits. The Milsteins and Snyder did not make any contributions of this type, according to FEC filings.
While modest in the context of their wealth, the giving by Snyder and the Milsteins is, of course, sky-high compared to most people’s political gifts.
“The average size of a contribution to the Republican National Committee is under $50, so (Snyder’s) support has certainly been generous in the past,” Fitzpatrick said.
“We’re certainly glad to have his support.”