When Mattie Lawson’s husband, Michael, suggested in 2003 that they consider hosting a political fundraiser at their lavish Los Angeles estate for a new up-and-comer in the field, she immediately said no.
The prominent African-American couple—he a recently retired partner in the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, she a major philanthropist and member of many boards—have long been considered two of the most powerful political brokers in California, with a reputation for choosing winning candidates. Their regular guests include Magic Johnson and his wife, Cookie; Diahann Carroll; Angela Bassett; Courtney Vance; and many others. But they’d never opened up their newly remodeled $8 million–plus Hancock Park mansion, formerly owned by boxing legend Muhammad Ali and decorated with Tiffany chandeliers and silk wallpaper. And Mattie wasn’t sure she wanted to go that route.
“I had no idea how to say Barack Obama and wasn’t very interested in learning at that point,” says Mattie with a laugh, sitting in the comfortable sunroom of the estate. That changed after she agreed to speak with then–State Senator Obama—over Skype. Since then the couple has raised nearly $2 million for Obama’s various campaigns. (The Daily Beast/ Newsweek)