Exactly 76 days remain before the 2012 presidential election, and there are many questions still to be answered.
Will the economy improve, or will the United States face another recession? Will substantive issues come out of the respective campaigns, or will they persist with negative attacks? And finally, will Barack Obama win a second term or will Republican nominee Mitt Romney unseat the Democratic incumbent? The Times' extensive political coverage will best answer those questions, but I can offer at least one morsel of information: It's pretty safe to say one prominent Laker will vote for Obama regardless of what happens in the ensuing two-plus months.
Representing Magic Johnson Enterprises, the Lakers legend made two separate payments totaling $5,000 to Obama's campaign, according to public records. The website WNYC.org reports that Johnson also donated $60,800 to the Democratic National Committee. Patrick Soon-Shiong, to whom Johnson sold his 4.5% ownership share of the Lakers to in 2010, gave $2,500 to Rick Perry's campaign in the latter's unsuccessful bid to win the Republican nomination, according to public records.
Various members of the Lakers supported Obama in the 2008 election.
Johnson gave $2,300 to Obama’s campaign March 2007 before making two separate donations of $2,300 to Hillary Clinton nearly five months later. He then switched the amounts donated to the two in August 2008. Johnson later conceded to CNN's Larry King that he thought Clinton would win the Democratic nomination.
Former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson gave $2,3000 to Obama's campaign. Johnny Buss, son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, donated amounts of $250 five separate times to the Democratic candidate. And Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and former guard Derek Fisher also publicly supported Obama.
Aside from Soon-Shiong's donation, no current Laker has donated to any political candidate.
For Johnson, plenty of moments surrounding Obama's presidency struck an emotional chord.
Once Obama officially became the United States' first African American president by winning the 2008 election, Johnson recalled on King's show that he "cried like a baby."
When the Lakers visited the White House in December 2010 to commemorate their 2009 NBA championship, Obama brought up his hometown-favorite Chicago Bulls and cited how Jackson won more rings with Chicago (six) than with the Lakers (five). Obama turned toward Johnson and specifically mentioned the Bulls beating the Lakers in five games in the 1991 NBA Finals.
""You remember that Magic," Obama said. "You know, they won the first game and they were feeling cocky. And [John] Paxson was hitting all those shots." Obama then mimicked Michael Jordan's legendary up-and-under shot.
"It was really a special moment in time that I’m going to always remember that the president of the United States trash-talked Magic Johnson," the Lakers star told reporters afterward. "And me restraining myself not to come back at him. He was the only man on Earth that ever trash-talked me and I [didn’t] say anything."
Johnson once worked directly under former president George H.W. Bush to oversee his National Commission on AIDS. But he soon resigned over his frustration and belief that the Bush administration didn't put a high-enough priority in funding and resources.
Johnson doesn't hold such views on Obama, even if the president's economic proposals could cause someone in Johnson's financial situation to pay more taxes.
"When you think about raising taxes, you have to raise it on those who can afford to pay more," Johnson told the Daily Caller. "I'm not going to worry about what he's taxing me. What I'm worried about is if the taxes are going to be higher for those who make more than $250,000, can the small-business owners get a break and be able to employ more people? He's doing a good job of doing that."
Republicans and Democrats can debate Johnson's assertions about Obama's performance all they like, but one thing's clear: Johnson's political donations suggest he's still enthusiastic in supporting the Democractic incumbent.
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