SACRAMENTO, CA - Chris Hansen, the lead investor in the bid to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, was identified as the donor behind the effort to force a vote on the Sacramento arena plan, state officials said.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission said Friday that Hansen donated $100,000 to a Sacramento law firm that then used the money to finance the signature-gathering effort that would force the Sacramento arena plan to a public vote.The announcement was made at a news conference to discuss a lawsuit filed by the FPPC to uncover the campaign's financial supporters.
According to USA Today Sports, if the petition was successful and the arena wasn't built by the NBA's required completion timeline (reportedly 2017), then new owner Vivek Ranadive and his group that bought the team for a league-record $535 million in mid-May would be at risk of losing the team and Seattle, conceivably, could be back in the mix.
"While I'm sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up the heat of battle, with the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret," Hansen said in a news release. "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."
The FPPC filed a complaint in Sacramento court Thursday to uncover the source of the money used by the law firm Loeb & Loeb, LLP. The FPPC claims the law firm's actions qualify it as a political committee under the Political Reform Act of 1974 and thus must file campaign statements identifying contributors and amounts. It alleges Loeb & Loeb had not done that.
The FPPC said Hansen was involved in "deceptive behavior" and should have known that disclosing the source of the money in the signature gathering campaign was part of the process.
"Unbelievable," Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said in a statement released in response to the FPPC's finding.
Hansen and the parties involved in the campaign could face up to $95,000 in fines for not properly disclosing the source of the money funding the campaign. However, the fines do not mean the petition-gathering effort or the anti-arena campaign must stop, as the campaign itself is not illegal.
According to the FPPC's findings, only $80,000 of the $100,000 donated to the campaign has been used so far. The campaign still has another $20,000 to spend.
During the news conference, the FPPC said it does not appear that former Sacramento Kings owners, the Maloof family, were involved in the anti-arena effort.
After the FPPC investigation named Hansen as the financial donor in the campaign, he released the following statement:
"I made a mistake I regret.
When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with the both the prospect of seeing our transaction fail and losing our $30 million deposit, 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.
While I'm sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up the heat of battle, 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."
(USA Today Sports' Sam Amick contributed to the story)