Jamie McCourt was interested in public office, estranged husband says
Jamie McCourt considered whether to parlay her high-profile position with the Dodgers into the pursuit of political offices, including president of the United States, according to documents filed by her estranged husband in the couple’s divorce proceedings.
McCourt declined to comment Monday, after speaking at a luncheon benefiting the Jewish Federation of Orange County. She told the crowd she had no desire to stage a public fight over ownership of the Dodgers but even less desire to walk away from a 30-year marriage on terms dictated by Frank McCourt.
“I don’t think that I should have to settle for less than what is right,” she said.
In a deposition included in the court filing, she said she had “thoughts and discussions with various people about public office.” She said she could not recall whether Frank McCourt was one of them.
In a December 2008 e-mail, Dodgers executive Charles Steinberg presented her with “Project Jamie,” a seven-page action plan that included this line: “Goal: Be Elected President of the United States.”
In a March 2009 e-mail suggesting that she first run for mayor of Los Angeles and then governor of California, consultant Michael Wissot wrote: “Since I’ve never known you to joke with me about your professional objectives, I presume that this POTUS (President of the United States) goal is serious.”
Wissot told The Times that McCourt never followed up with him.
“It was never clear to me that this was a priority,” said Wissot, who runs SymAction, a Los Angeles communications and political strategy firm. “There’s a clear difference between bringing something up in a brainstorming capacity and saying this is a specific course of action.”
In her deposition, McCourt testified she had not taken any actions toward a campaign for mayor, governor or president.
“The Dodger organization, including Frank McCourt, learned of these aspirations only when the documents surfaced after the parties separated,” said Marshall Grossman, the attorney representing the team.
“The Dodgers were surprised to learn that Mr. Steinberg had performed services beyond those for which he was hired.”
Steinberg, listed in last year’s Dodgers media guide as executive in charge of “creative production, communications, community relations and fan services,” left the team last fall. After the McCourts filed divorce papers, at least six employees hired by Steinberg were dismissed.
Steinberg’s blueprint envisioned a “Jamie Coalition” of women, minorities, youth, Hollywood types and “sports-loving males” and the development of a “Dodgers University” that would include after-school programs for children, adult literacy classes and sports business seminars.
According to the plan, McCourt could then run for office on twin platforms of family improvement and education, using the Dodgers University to garner endorsements from the likes of Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Maria Shriver, Antonio Villaraigosa, Fernando Valenzuela and basketball’s Bill Russell.
In her deposition, McCourt deflected questions about the “Project Jamie” goal of her election as president.
“That would be a nice goal, but this is Charles’s memo,” she said.
Steinberg did not return calls from The Times.
Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said he had no way to project whether McCourt might ever succeed in a presidential bid.
“It’s like talking about a college freshman going into the NFL Hall of Fame,” Schnur said.
However, he said she could stand a reasonable chance in a mayoral campaign. The California political landscape includes Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, neither of whom previously held public office.
However, Schnur said the high-profile divorce has not put either of the McCourts in a positive light.
“There’s no question, if she decided to run for office, she’d be starting at a disadvantage,” Schnur said. “That said, a smart campaign team and a disciplined candidate could put together a pretty compelling narrative about a woman who fights for what she believes in.”
McCourt told the luncheon crowd she plans to launch a foundation soon. She said Frank McCourt had “unceremoniously and publicly terminated me” as the Dodgers’ chief executive and repeated the assertions of her lawyers that he has pressed to enforce an agreement that they say would leave him with 95% of the couple’s assets. She has asked a court to overturn that agreement, which his lawyers say she signed on three occasions.
She also said she hopes to parlay the “unwanted celebrity” conferred upon her by the divorce case to transform her work and life “into something fantastic.”
“I love change, which is a lucky thing,” she said. “There’s no telling what’s going to come next.”