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How L.A. sports team owners contributed money to the 2020 election race

A look at the political donations made by Los Angeles professional sports team owners.
A look at the political donations made by Los Angeles professional sports team owners in the run up to the 2020 general election.
(Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)
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Leading up to this week’s presidential election, The Times scoured the databases of the Federal Election Commission and the California Secretary of State to gain an understanding of the political activism of the owners and partners of professional sports teams in Los Angeles.

That group of deep-pocketed contributors combined to spend more on Democrats and their causes than on Republican efforts, bucking the nationwide trend of most sports owners. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign drew $642,200 in support from owners of Los Angeles’ sports teams, compared to $7,971 donated to President Trump’s campaign.

The group’s combined financial support during this election donation cycle totaled more than $18 million, with the bulk coming from one family.

Total political contributions made by owners of eight Los Angeles professional sports franchises since November 2018.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

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Steve and Connie Ballmer, of the Clippers, dedicated half of their nearly $15-million political spending spree on promoting California Propositions 16 and 25. If accepted, Proposition 16 would end the ban on affirmative action and Proposition 25 would eliminate cash bail. Connie Ballmer made a $7-million donation to Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund.

A breakdown of the $14,782,100 political contributions Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have made.
A breakdown of the $14,782,100 in political contributions Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have made in the run up to the 2020 election.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

When it came to strictly partisan donations, Philip and Nancy Anschutz of the Kings and Galaxy were the most aggressive. They spent more than $1 million on Republican causes and campaigns to elect Republican members of Congress from California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kansas and Texas. Through the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the family donated about $50,000 to elect Democrats in California state elections and $100,000 to stop Proposition 15, which raises commercial property taxes. The Anschutzes also dropped $5,000 to endorse Propositions 16, 17 and 18. Proposition 17 restores parolees’ right to vote and 18 gives some 17-year-olds the right to vote in California primaries.

A look at how Los Angeles Kings owner and L.A. Galaxy owner Philip Anschutz and his wife, Nancy, donated.
A look at how Los Angeles Kings owner and L.A. Galaxy owner Philip Anschutz and his wife, Nancy, donated to political entities ahead of the 2020 election. Also represented are AEG and Anschutz Corp.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

Marc Merrill, one of many co-owners of LAFC, emerged as one of Los Angeles’ top spenders. A cofounder of video game developing company Riot Games, Merrill donated $826,200 to mostly Democratic campaigns and committees. He made a donation of $620,600 to the Biden Victory Fund.

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Angels owner Arte Moreno, a Republican who spoke at a Latinos for Trump event in Phoenix in September, donated about $20,000 to Trump’s campaign and victory fund prior to this election cycle. Neither he nor his wife, Carole, have donated to Trump since. They instead used this donation cycle to spend upwards of $50,000 on supporting Republican members of Congress, including matching $10,600 donations to a political action committee for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

A breakdown of political donations made by Angels owner Arte Moreno and his wife, Carole.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

Of the Dodgers’ owners, the most active was Todd Boehly, who also has a stake in the Sparks. He spent roughly $133,000 on both Democratic and Republican causes and campaigns.

Dodgers ownership political contributions ahead of the 2020 election.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

The Chargers ownership group combined to donate more than $300,000 in this cycle to primarily Republican issues and races. Dean and Michael Spanos each sent $25,000 to Take Back the House 2020. They also contributed a total of $43,800 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Among the least politically involved in this Los Angeles group were the Lakers owners. Jeanie Buss donated $2,700 to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign and also made nearly $5,000 in donations through ActBlue, the online fundraising platform. Jim Buss’ donations to Republican efforts, including Trump’s reelection, totaled about $7,200.

Political contributions made by Lakers team owners Jeanie and James Buss since November 2018.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

A breakdown of how L.A. sports team owners donated ahead of the 2020 election.
A breakdown of how L.A. sports team owners donated ahead of the 2020 election. Donations to California Democrats and Republicans represent less than one percent of all donations.
(Thuc Nhi Nguyen; Austin Knoblauch / Los Angeles Times)

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About the data:

The Times searched FEC and the California Secretary of State data for all members and spouses of the ownership groups that control Los Angeles’ NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and MLS teams. The data presented here includes only the names of those who donated to political causes or campaigns after the election donation cycle began Nov. 7, 2018.

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Missing from the dataset were those for whom no contributions were found, including Magic Johnson, a vocal supporter of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election. He donated more than $500,000 to Democratic entities during that cycle. But he did not make any contributions ahead of this year’s presidential election.

The same goes for the family of Stan Kroenke, who owns the Rams. The Kroenkes were politically active in the past. They donated $100,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016 and more than $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee but nothing in this cycle.

Times staff writer Thuc Nhi Nguyen contributed to this story.

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