A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

ESAFund/Ending Spending Inc.


Political leaningsFiscally conservative

Spending targetUnknown

Ending Spending Action Fund was launched as a super PAC in 2010 along with its affiliated nonprofit, Ending Spending Inc. Originally, the super PAC was called Taxpayers Against Earmarks, and it advocated against congressional earmarks. In 2011, the super PAC changed its name and expanded its focus to include the nation’s overall fiscal outlook. In 2015, it changed its name again — this time to ESAFund.

ESAFund describes itself as a nonpartisan super PAC that “supports political candidates who understand the importance of a balanced budget.”

The group was formed by its current chairman, Joe Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

As a super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission, ESAFund is allowed to raise money of unlimited amounts but must disclose its donors. During the 2016 election cycle, five of the six largest donors were individuals. The exception was Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, which contributed $1.6 million. Marlene Ricketts, one of the Chicago Cubs owners, was the super PAC’s largest donor in 2016. She contributed $6.75 million. Paul Singer, founder and president of the Elliott Management hedge fund, donated $1.95 million.

During the 2016 election cycle, ESAFund spent about $14.9 million in independent expenditures. About $6 million was spent on advertising that expressly supported Republican candidates, and $3.6 million was spent to oppose Republicans. The group did not use any funds to support Democrats, and it spent $5 million on ads against Democratic candidates. Other than the $800,000 spent opposing Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, all of the PAC’s independent expenditures were spent on congressional races.

Although ESAFund was not very active in the 2016 presidential campaign, the Ricketts family donated millions to the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC. At the time, Trump criticized the Ricketts in a tweet: “I hear the Rickets family, who own the Chicago Cubs, are secretly spending $’s against me. They better be careful, they have a lot to hide!”

For the 2018 election cycle, ESAFund had spent just $53,000 in independent expenditures as of April 2018. All of it went to support Karen Handel in the Georgia special House election, which she won in June 2017. The largest donation, so far, came from William Oberndorf, who donated $100,000. As of April 2018, the Ricketts had not made any contributions to the super PAC for this campaign cycle.

The super PAC’s affiliated nonprofit, Ending Spending Inc., is not required to disclose its donors. During the 2016 election cycle, Ending Spending Inc. spent $2.6 million on independent expenditures. Like ESAFund, the nonprofit made no expenditures in support of Democrats. Ending Spending Inc. spent $1.2 million to support Republicans, $1.1 million to oppose Republicans, and $300,000 to oppose Democratic candidates. The group did not target any presidential candidates; all expenditures went toward congressional candidates.

For the 2018 election cycle, Ending Spending Inc. had spent $1.8 million in independent expenditures, as of April 2018, on two special House elections. About $1.3 million of that went to help elect Handel in Georgia. The group also contributed about $500,000 to Pennsylvania House candidate Rick Saccone, who narrowly lost to Conor Lamb in March.