- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

President Obama’s choice of Dan Rooney as ambassador to Ireland is providing a rare look into the personal finances of the chairman of a Super Bowl-winning franchise - and also into the often overlapping world of national politics.

Mr. Rooney, like several other of Mr. Obama’s ambassadorial appointees, was a financial backer of Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign last year. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Rooney and his wife have donated more than $150,000 to federal candidates since 1990, including $500 to Mr. Obama. About 90 percent of the donations have gone to Democrats.

Mr. Rooney was sworn in last week. As an ambassadorial nominee, he was required to file a detailed financial disclosure report with government ethics officials. According to the form, he drew a $2.2 million salary from the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past year and a half - an unheard of sum in the halls of government but fairly modest judging by the compensation paid to top NFL players, including his own.

Mr. Rooney’s star quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, last year reportedly signed an eight-year, $102 million contract with the team.

But the Steelers aren’t Mr. Rooney’s only source of income. He also reported $1.2 million from Rooney Enterprises and more than $900,000 from his interest in a West Palm Beach, Fla., racetrack.

Mr. Rooney’s office at Steelers headquarters didn’t respond to a request for information about his future with the team. The ambassador’s ethics filing indicates that he plans to receive three severance payments from the team this year totaling one penny under $1 million.

He endorsed Mr. Obama’s presidential candidacy prior to last year’s Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, in which Mr. Obama was challenging Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Mrs. Clinton, now secretary of state, did not mention that interlude during Mr. Rooney’s swearing-in ceremony last week. Instead, she called him “the man behind the Steelers, one of Pittsburgh’s leading citizens and our next ambassador to Ireland.”

Mr. Rooney also did not discuss the election, instead citing his efforts to bring peace to Ireland by helping to found the American Ireland Fund, a charity “dedicated to peace, culture and charity in all of Ireland.”

His appointment as ambassador followed his endorsement of Mr. Obama by a year. Mrs. Clinton won in Pennsylvania, but Mr. Obama picked up the state in the general election against Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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