BY Art Thiel 07:23PM 08/16/2013

Hansen funded Sactown campaign he ‘regrets’

Chris Hansen admits he gave $100,000 to help an anti-arena group attempting to stop public funding of Sacramento’s proposed arena AFTER he lost his bid to buy Kings.


Not only did Chris Hansen lose out in his bid to buy the Sacramento Kings, he apparently didn’t take no for an answer, and now it’s coming back to bite him. The Sacramento Bee reported Friday that Seattle native funded to the tune of $100,000 an anti-arena campaign in Sacramento that seeks to put the project to a vote in June.

Hansen admitted to the funding and a failure to report the June 21 donation, which likely will lead to a fine and damage to his credibility.

“I’m sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up in the heat of battle,” Hansen wrote in an email sent to Sportspress Northwest and other media outlets after the Bee broke the story Friday afternoon. “With the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret. I wish the city of Sacramento and Kings fans the best in their efforts and they have my commitment not to have any involvement in their arena efforts in the future.”

Hansen’s “donation” after he lost the Kings bid was revealed by a source a day after the California Fair Political Practices Commission sued the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb seeking the identity of the donor. California, as with Washington and many states, has laws requiring timely disclosure of major funders to political campaigns.

Hansen explained that once his bid for the Kings received an unexpected rival by a group from Sacramento, he hired attorneys to investigate the opposition to public money provided by a city council vote to build the arena.

“We were faced with both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit,” Hansen wrote. “I engaged Loeb & Loeb to canvas the various opposition groups to gain an understanding of their efforts and the prospects of their success. 

“During this time I was approached through Loeb by the opposition about making a contribution to the opposition’s efforts as part of a broader group and agreed to make a donation. 

“In this regard I would just like to highlight that I have never directly engaged with or even had any conversations or contact with STOP, Taxpayers For Safer Neighborhoods, or any the various consultants engaged in the Sacramento Arena opposition. It was also not my intent to be the primary financial sponsor of the opposition’s efforts. I merely agreed to make a donation to the opposition in what had become a competitive and heated process.

“I have not agreed to provide any further political contributions and do not intend to make any further contributions. I would also just point out that the contribution was made in my personal capacity and not on behalf of our ownership group or my partners. In fact, I have never discussed the contribution with them to date.”

How Hansen could not have known of the likely discovery of his donation is breathtaking, as was his reluctance to inform partners and advisers of his decision, not to mention interfering in another city’s political process.

An attempt to influence a decision in another market is unlikely to be overlooked by NBA owners in judging Hansen’s worthiness as a future owner of an existing or expansion team. It is not necessarily a deal-breaker, but the move can be seen as deliberately undercutting the new owners of the Kings, a group led by Silicon Valley billionaire Vivek Ranadive.

The money was directed to a signature-gathering campaign seeking 22,000 registered voters by December to put on the ballot the issue of using $258 million in future parking revenues for the arena project. The public funding plan was part of the commitment made by the city council to NBA owners, who subsequently voted 22-8 in May to keep the team in the California capital.

The law firm had been one that was used regularly by the Maloof family, the Kings owners, which in January received a $525 million offer from Hansen and primary partner Steve Ballmer of Microsoft. Hansen subsequently twice raised the offer, to $625 million, but said he was “extremely disappointed” when the NBA voted instead to take the $535 million offer from the Ranadive group, whose arena plan was much less further along than Hansen’s plan in Seattle.

At an afternoon press conference in Sacramento, state FPPC enforcement chief Gary Winuk scolded Hansen for his negligence. The reporting deadline was July 31.

“He should have known state law required him to report his $100,000 contribution. It’s not like a local school board candidate running for the first time,” Winuk said. The lapse was “at best negligent, at worst purposeful behavior.”

In a statement emailed to the Bee, Sacramento Metro Chamber President Roger Niello Friday called Hansen “a saboteur” and said the deception was “an assault on our entire community.”

Hansen could be fined up to $95,000, depending on the outcome of an investigation.

Several weeks later in a visit to Seattle, Hansen, a San Francisco hedge fund manager, told KJR radio the process of attempting to take away the Kings from a loyal fan base “kind of made me sick to my stomach.”  He said he would go after another city’s team again only if he was convinced the team was going to leave.

Because no other NBA teams are as close to moving as the Kings were, Hansen’s best bet would seem to have been expansion. NBA commissioner David Stern said throughout the bidding war that developed between the markets that expansion was “not on the table.”

But after the vote, there was discussion about expansion once the NBA knew the value of its future TV contract revenues. The deals expire after the 2014-15 season, but negotiations were said likely to begin this summer. But expansion does not seem likely for at least two more seasons, if then.

In Sacramento, an anti-arena group  STOP –  Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork –  has been circulating petitions to force a public vote. In June, $100,000 was wired from the LA law firm to a political consultant in Tulare, CA., who was helping the Sacramento petition drive. The contribution was required to be disclosed by July 31 and wasn’t, the Bee reported. That prompted the FPPC lawsuit, which generated a hearing set for Monday.

Separately, the Bee reported attorneys for the city Thursday characterized a lawsuit against the arena deal as “filled with extreme and slanderous allegations” against city officials and “a work of fiction.”

That lawsuit, filed earlier by Sacramento attorneys Patrick Soluri and Jeffrey Anderson, alleged that the city’s stated arena subsidy of $258 million is an illegal gift of public funds, and that city officials are concealing aspects of the deal.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    So STOP wasn’t aware of Hansen’s efforts but a political watchdog group was? They wouldn’t be aware unless they were pointed in that direction. And just where was David Stern during all this???

    • art thiel

      According to the SacBee, STOP sounded as if it were running away from acknowledging the source of funding. And for once, Stern is not a party. He did his misdeeds prior to vote.

      • Leon Russell

        What “misdeeds” did Stern do?

        • Eddweller

          Really?

        • Skeezix

          Well sir,I imagine It all began on the day that he was born most likely…..You don’t end up being as slimy and sleazy as He without years and years of practice…

        • Skeezix

          Was You Born In Lawton,OK,and is yer given name Claude?

        • art thiel

          The most irritating one was his claim after the Hansen purchase attempt that the relocation decision was up to the owners, not him, and he would stay removed. In fact, his own quotes from 2007 — if the Seattle lost the Sonics, the NBA would never return on his watch — were his blueprint for manipulating events throughout, including getting the relocation committee to change its vote from 4-3 to 7-0.

          • Leon Russell

            Those are not “misdeeds.” lol
            Breaking the California campaign law is a misdeed. Stern broke no laws, nor did he do anything wrong. Hilarious to me how loser Sonics fans can’t see things from any perspective other than that of a jilted lover. Pathetic.
            Of course Stern did not get a vote on relocation or the sale of the Kings. Stern is not an owner. However, the owners pay Stern to advise them. You have a problem with Stern doing the job the owners pay him to do, which is giving them advice? That is what commissioners are paid to do.
            Bunch of poor losers here.

  • Jeff

    I don’t have much of an issue with the move other than Hansen should have disclosed it by the deadline. He knew he was in bed with the snakes that are the Maloofs, so he figured a $100k donation vs a $30 million deposit he’d never see back made it worth it. Don’t be so sure the other investors, like Ballmer, didn’t know about it, as Hansen has no need to include him on today’s statement, better to just fall on the sword himself.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think it helps his public cred to say he was sneaking around behind the backs of his partners/advisors/political supporters to do something that most college freshmen would know was wrong.

      And it was s month AFTER he lost the vote. Your rationalizations almost work if it happened before the vote.

      • Jeff

        Not entirely sure about the timing. The Hansen letter seems to indicate an earlier payment, and there could be some grey area on when Loeb & Loeb was approved to make the payment, when the payment was delivered, when it was cashed, and when it was reported. He sent out a check for an effort to simply ask Sacramento voters to approve a nearly unprecedented public subsidy, big whoop.

        But either way, given the efforts and funds Hansen and Ballmer spent and how Stern conspired against that effort by shifting deadlines, jawboning owners, being coy from the outset about an existing minority NBA owner he had in the bag and being his usual d-bag self, I wouldn’t have cared if Hansen ran around that Dallas hotel naked with middle fingers in the air speaking in tongue before giving David a Gatorade bath, I got his back.

        • Skeezix

          I’m With You Jeff….

        • art thiel

          I can’t go there, Jeff. Too Clay Bennett.

  • Mike Barer

    It doesn’t bode well for his credibility either with our city officials or the general public, but did he do anything illegal?

    • art thiel

      It appears he broke state law by not disclosing by the deadline. Up to $95,000 fine.

  • Effzee

    Aaaaah, NBA dealings. Smarmy as ever.

    • art thiel

      It’s coming back to me now. “David, you’re just the most wonderful person I know . . .” signed, Clay Bennett.

  • Skeezix

    Is Hansen dumb,reckless or asleep at the switcH?……Didn’t his group recently miss a payment on the Arena study or some such thing?

    • art thiel

      He was late on a payment that has been paid. He said he was away.

      The fact that you’re asking the questions gets to the heart of the problem: Reasonable people are questioning his judgment. There was zero good to come of that $100K AFTER the NBA vote. He had no business interfering in Sacramento’s business.

      • JCB

        Art: I was at the Seattle City Council hearing when he essentially goaded the Council into voting on the MOU themselves and NOT put it to a public vote. Incredibly hypocritical for taxpayers in Seattle to not be able to vote on the MOU, but contribute to a campaign that would allow Sacramento to put it to voters.

  • Skeezix

    But Arthur…I am Not a reasonable person…I am Skeezix,dammit!

    • art thiel

      Sorry to have condemned you to the fires of moderation.

  • Leon Russell

    Chris Hansen is just a slimeball, and not a very smart one at that.
    His hedge fund is losing money hand-over-fist.
    Hansen got taken by the Maloofs for $30 million.
    And now he gets caught with his pants down trying to sabotage the new arena for the Kings.
    We are learning Hansen has zero integrity.
    And we are also learning that Hansen is really pretty damn stupid.
    What the hell is Mayor McGinn doing in bed with the charlatan, Chris Hansen?

    • art thiel

      I don’t think he’s a slimeball or stupid. But naive? Yes. Foolish? Probably. He still has ‘splainin to do because his first try didn’t work very well. When an individual attempts to partner with a municipality to get a loan, he can’t be attempting to undercut another municipality — at least without being transparent.

      • Leon Russell

        Hansen is both a slimeball and stupid. I’m afraid you are the one who is being naïve.

  • Marcus

    He should have played it better. I don’t mind the contribution – all is fair in love and KJ – but it should have been properly reported. He should be fined and keep up the apology train for this news cycle. Beyond that, I don’t much care. “Just win baby” is my mantra in sports and sports ownership groups. Hansen wants to win a team, that much is clear. The Sacramento arena “deal” is already showing cracks if you’ve been following the latest “eminent domain” developments. This will be a nice diversion for them, but even if the deal imploded or there is a public vote that rejects the terrible deal they’ve got, the Kings aren’t moving here (maybe San Jose), since the NBA would now lose face.

    Ultimately, it’s about the long term and not people feeling weepy today. Sacramento will enjoy a renewed interest in having a villain and ignoring their arena and ownership’s warts. The sensitive types in Seattle will feel their hearts were abused. The City of Seattle and King County won’t change paths based on this. The NBA won’t bring or withhold an expansion team based on this (for a few of the owners their estimation of Hansen may actually go up if you’re familiarity with the world some of those owners walk in).

    What Hansen did was wrong, but it’s a slap across his face in a prize fight. He’s not going to fall down or be knocked out by it.

  • Sadpanda

    A theory: Hansen knows or believes that expansion is even less likely than we have heard. And even if they expand, other suitors are more likely to win the franchise, or maybe competing bids in Seattle. This was a Hail Mary.