Charles B. Johnson, the retired investment-company billionaire believed to hold one of the largest stakes in the San Francisco Giants, is attracting attention for the second time in two months over a political campaign contribution.
According to a federal election filing Wednesday, Johnson and his wife, Ann, each donated the maximum $2,700 to the campaign of Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican U.S. Senator from Mississippi who faces Democrat and former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy in a runoff Tuesday [November 27] for the final Senate seat to be decided in the 2018 midterm elections.
Hyde-Smith has been under fire from opponents since Nov. 11, when a video at a campaign rally in Tupelo surfaced that showed her expressing her regards for a local rancher by saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."
Her comments have become a major campaign issue because of Mississippi's notorious history of African Americans being lynched. Although Hyde-Smith apologized in a statement and during a Tuesday debate with Espy, who is African American, she also said her comments were in jest and being "twisted" by political opponents.
Since the video surfaced, Hyde-Smith also was captured on video saying it would be a good idea to make it harder for some college students to vote. A 2014 photo of Hyde-Smith donning a Confederate hat has created controversy in Mississippi as well.
According to the election filing, Charles B. Johnson and Ann L. Johnson of Palm Beach, Fla., donated the combined $5,400 to the Hyde-Smith campaign Tuesday, nine days after her "public hanging" comment surfaced.
Several corporations, including Walmart, AT&T and Pfizer, publicly renounced their support for Hyde-Smith and asked that she return contributions they made before her comments became public.
"Sen. Hyde-Smith's comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates," Walmart said in a statement on Twitter. "As a result we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations."
Last month, filings showed Charles B. Johnson donated $1,000 to a Super PAC called Black Americans for the President's Agenda, which created a racist robocall used during an Arkansas congressional election before the midterms.
Johnson, who does not give interviews and keeps a very low profile, issued a rare statement through the Giants on Oct. 19 renouncing the group.
"I had absolutely no knowledge that this donation would be used in this manner and I, like the Giants organization, strongly condemn any form of racism and in no way condone the advertisement that was created by this entity," said Johnson, retired chairman of Franklin-Templeton Investments, in the statement.
Some Giants fans expressed outrage on social media that Johnson had donated to this group. Several did so again Thursday after Judd Legum, a political writer, publicized Johnson's donations to the Hyde-Smith campaign on his Popular Information newsletter.
Giants officials, some of whom are away for the holiday weekend, did not immediately respond to a request for comments on Johnson's latest contribution.
Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. This appeared there on November 23, 2018.
November 24, 2018
Post Script. Tuesday, Nov. 27 is Senate Election Day in Mississippi, Mike Espey vs.the candidate who wears Confederate garb & is eager to watch lynchings. The fight for America's soul continues. We won the Senate Seat in Alabama. Tell everyone you know in MS. #GOTV #MSElection2018
For the record, the latest.