In a recent article on professional sports team owners and their political donations, research showed that the San Francisco Giants’ largest shareholder, Charles Johnson, far surpassed any other owner with his financial support.
On Wednesday, FiveThirtyEight in collaboration with ESPN, published an analysis titled “Inside The Political Donation History Of Wealthy Sports Owners.” The article highlighted Johnson’s consistently huge contributions to Republican candidates.
Since 2015, 160 professional sports owners and commissioners from 125 teams showed political support financially through their donations. The collective group donated more than $47 million towards candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) during federal elections. In addition, Johnson contributed nearly $11 million of that total, which is around 24% of all owner donations.
Furthermore, around 73% of owner’s donations went to the GOP and their PACs, which is around $34.2 million. Democrats and their PACs received about 22% of donations. Finally, the other roughly 5% of political contributions from team owners went towards bipartisan or unaffiliated recipients.
Johnson, 88, led the way with 32% of Republican donations. The Giants owner’s $10,995,500 in contributions to Republicans well exceed any other owner’s donations. In fact, his total surpasses the next high spender by five times their amount.
For reference, the number two donor is Orlando Magic chairman Dan DeVos who contributed $2,280,400 to Republicans. Additionally, the number three donor on the list is Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos who contributed $2,082,770 for Democrats and their PACs.
In the last five years alone, Johnson wrote more than 200 checks, including multiple during the 2020 presidential election. Yet, one check for $35,000 is listed as a bipartisan donation, and another $5,000 check is listed as Democratic.
Johnson and His GOP Contributions Came to Light in 2018
Previous to the 2018 midterm elections, Johnson’s history of political donations started to receive some attention in the media. At the time, his financial contributions to U.S. Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith became a talking point.
Hyde-Smith is a Republican politician in the state of Mississippi. During her successful 2018 campaign run, she made a “public hanging” comment that many deemed insensitive because of Mississippi’s history involving lynchings. The comment brought scrutiny on her campaign and on those that donated, including Johnson.
Johnson called Hyde-Smith’s insensitive comments “stupid” and told the San Francisco Chronicle that he took back his donation. Likewise, Johnson also took back another donation from a Republican candidate running for Congress who promoted a racist advertisement during their campaign.
“On the whole, I don’t like the idea of politics affecting anything I do with the Giants,” Johnson explained.
Johnson is the former chairman of Franklin Resources Inc., which is based in San Mateo, CA. The company includes Franklin-Templeton investments, which is estimated to be worth around $4-5 billion. Although there are multiple people within an investment group who own the Giants, Johnson owns more than any other partial owner. He owns slightly more than 25% of the Bay Area baseball team.