Hansen Unmasked As Major Donor Behind Effort Against Sacramento Arena
Former NBA Kings bidder Chris Hansen on Friday was "unmasked as the mystery donor behind the signature-gathering effort to force a public vote" on the Kings' proposed $448M downtown arena, and he then "apologized for the donation ... and said he wouldn't give the anti-arena effort any more money," according to Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Hansen and an Orange County (Calif.) PAC "filed documents revealing Hansen contributed $100,000 to the petition drive on June 21." The revelation "seemed likely to damage the petition drive -- and Hansen's own efforts to bring the NBA back to Seattle." California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) said that Hansen's donation "violated state law because disclosure came two weeks late." The news was the "latest setback for the Sacramento group gamely trying to carry on with the petition drive," entitled STOP, as it has been "hurt already by media reports about the secrecy behind the campaign's funding." Hansen said he "got caught up (in) the heat of battle." This came "amid signs that he was losing the tug-of-war over the Kings." But Hansen's statement "made no explanation of why he made the contribution three weeks after he had lost the fight." Hansen: "This is clearly a decision I regret." He said that he "had no contact" with the anti-arena group. He added he also had no contact with "any (of) the various consultants" in the anti-arena drive (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/17).
DELVING INTO THE DONATION: ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported law firm Loeb & Loeb, which Hansen used to make the donation, "secretly funneled $80,000" to STOP. Hansen said that the law firm "approached him about making a contribution to the petition effort after he had hired them to gauge citizen opposition during the battle over the sale." FPPC Enforcement Division Chief Gary Winuk said that it "wasn't clear what happened to the additional $20,000," though it "might have been spent on other expenses" (ESPN.com, 8/16). In Seattle, Miletich & Brunner wrote Hansen's bid to "bring the NBA back to Seattle took a major stumble" due to the revelation. Hansen "found himself under a cloud after working for nearly two years to cultivate a reputation locally as a trustworthy businessman." Winuk said that Hansen or the law firm "could face a civil penalty of up to $100,000" for not making the disclosure by the end of July (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/17). NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper noted of Hansen, "He apologized. After being caught." Howard-Cooper: "This level of, umm, opposition research is hardly shocking where tycoons of Hansen’s level play every day in deals measured on the Richter scale. ... But within the NBA itself, the actions are potentially huge." If there is an "apology to be made, it should be to Seattle for the way Hansen has injured his hometown’s efforts to get the NBA back." That is the "true lasting impact" of the situation, as it is "unquestionably a setback in a time when Seattle cannot afford any" (NBA.com, 8/17). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton wrote of STOP's efforts, "In a town where you can drum up formidable opposition to anything, the anti-arena forces are -- how to put this diplomatically? -- kind of hapless." Once you "strip away the anti-arena signatures gathered in Sacramento since late June ... you don't have much." Still, Hansen's donation "boggles the mind." The "smart move would have been for Hansen to suck up to NBA owners" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/18).
DEALING WITH DUPLICITY: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer wrote the disclosure shows Hansen "can do dirty and conniving and hypocritical, all of which should elicit two reactions." Brewer: "1. Shame on you. 2. It was only a matter of time." Hansen "deserves every degree of the heat he’s taking for his underhanded act." He "messed up, big time." It "might even be best" if co-former Kings bidder, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, "took a permanent lead in dealing with the NBA" after this. Still, this situation "is rectifiable." It "won't be easy, but it can smoothed over" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/18). In Sacramento, Tom Couzens wrote of the donation, "Hansen comes off as a rich, spoiled kid who isn't used to losing and doesn't know how to handle rejection." It is "time for Hansen to grow up -- and stay away" (SACBEE.com, 8/18). Also in Seattle, Danny Westneat wrote it "turns out that Sonics' white knight Chris Hansen ... is actually Karl Rove." The revelation "is troubling for all sorts of reasons," as it is "classless, for one." What is "going to cause problems here ... is the secrecy part of this story" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/18). Also in Seattle, Lynn Thompson wrote Hansen "badly tarnished the image of a trustworthy business partner that he’d worked so hard to cultivate." Less "certain was the fate" of Hansen's $200M arena agreement with King County, Wash., which "still requires final approval by the city and county councils" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Freeman noted it is "possible that Hansen's actions are hurting Seattle's chances at nabbing a team" in the future. These actions "won't necessarily stop Hansen from getting a team, but they do introduce new doubts where there previously were very few" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/16).