A lawsuit filed by the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) to find out what mystery donor contributed $100,000 to a campaign against a proposed new Sacramento sports arena smoked out a Seattle businessman who had tried, and failed, to lure the city’s basketball team to his town.
Chris Hansen was a good loser a month ago when the National Basketball Association (NBA) voted to keep the team in Sacramento, congratulating the city publicly and complimenting its “loyal” fan base. He had nearly snagged the team for himself, but a deal to buy the Kings from the Maloof family in January was blocked by the league, which favored a competing bid from locals.
A key to the Sacramento bid was the city’s offer to subsidize construction of a new downtown arena to the tune of $258 million. That met with some resistance in the community and in May, the Coalition for Responsible Arena Development sued the city and began a campaign to put the issue before the voters.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that a law firm had acted as a conduit for a secret donor’s $100,000 contribution to the anti-arena petition drive. Speculation immediately focused on one of their bigger clients, the Maloof family. But the law firm wasn’t talking, until the FPPC opened an inquiry.
On Friday they fessed up, but that may not be enough to satisfy the watchdog agency. The Hansen disclosure came two weeks past the state deadline for making such information public, and FPPC enforcement chief Gary Winuk told the Sacramento Bee, “There really isn't a justification for not filing on time.”
Hansen and the Orange County political action committee (PAC) he used to convey the money are subject to fines. The law firm, which presumably knows the law, is reportedly off the hook.
Sacramento boosters and basketball fans are still not out of the woods. Although the petition drive has been damaged, getting the arena built is no slam dunk. And there are still interested parties in cities like Anaheim that would like to bring the sports franchise to their town.
That still includes Seattle, although observers say Hansen may have fatally damaged his future prospects despite his abject apology. “This is clearly a decision I regret,” he said in a prepared statement.