Word that soon-to-retire Walt Disney Company chief executive Bob Iger is in line for similar duties with the Chargers if the organization is green-lighted by the NFL to head for Los Angeles marks yet another radical step away from the team’s longstanding Republican roots.
Back in the 1960s, former Richard Nixon press honcho and Union-Tribune editor Herb Klein took star quarterback Jack Kemp under the newspaper’s right wing and ultimately coached him to a GOP seat in Congress. Then came well-heeled apartment builder Alex Spanos of Stockton, who bought control of the team from Nixon Democrat Gene Klein in 1984. Spanos bankrolled Republican mayor Pete Wilson’s climb to the U.S. Senate and later financed GOP mayor Susan Golding’s Republican National Convention in 1996.
But these days Spanos, who turned 92 in September, is said to suffer from dementia, and his son Dean has assumed control of the family sports enterprise. Though he still backs Republican causes — including the recently ended presidential campaign of Texas governor Rick Perry and the PAC of congressman Darrell Issa — the younger Spanos is looking to maximize the value of his football team. In Los Angeles, that means wheeling and dealing with wealthy Democrats, among them Iger.
Campaign filings show that the Disney chieftain has so far this year given a total of $37,700 to Democrats, including $25,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and $2700 to the Hillary for America committee. During the previous campaign fundraising cycle, he kicked in $5000 for New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker’s senate race and $50,000 to the House Senate Victory Fund, which, combined with related contributions, brought the liberal mega-donor’s total to $149,000. In January of last year Iger and his wife, Willow Bay, an ex-model and TV reporter who is now director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, hosted a 2016 reelection fundraiser for Vermont senator Patrick Leahy.
“Fundraising early for favorite candidates has become a common practice among Hollywood studio chiefs,” said the Hollywood Reporter. “They figure an early show of force will scare off challengers.”