SEATTLE — Investor Chris Hansen confirmed Friday that he donated money through a law firm to groups opposed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento — a clandestine contribution that California officials said occurred in mid-June, three weeks after Hansen lost his bid to buy the NBA team and move it to Seattle and after he had wished the new owners in Sacramento well.
“I made a mistake I regret,” Hansen said in a statement issued Friday night on his sonicsarena.com website.
California’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state’s appointed political watchdog, announced earlier Friday that Hansen had donated $100,000 through the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb to an opposition petition campaign in Sacramento to try to force a public vote – and potentially scuttle — the Kings’ proposed new downtown arena deal.
His contribution came on June 21, three weeks after the National Basketball Association owners in May vetoed his deal to buy the team and move it to Seattle.
“When our binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings became a competitive situation and we were faced with 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,” Hansen said in his statement.
“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.”
At an afternoon press conference in Sacramento, FPPC enforcement chief Gary Winuk said Hansen should have known state law required him to report his $100,000 contribution. Both Hansen and the political action committee of the opposition group could face fines, Winuk said.
Hansen’s statement made no explanation why he made the contribution three weeks after he had lost the fight for the Kings.
“Despite his apology, experts said he had already wounded his effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle some day, as the league might not appreciate his meddling in another market,” the Sacramento Bee’s news story on the issue said.
The disclosure first came in campaign documents filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office by an Orange County political action committee.
The group gathering petition signatures made the filing one day after the FPPC sued Loeb & Loeb, which had wired $80,000 of Hansen’s $100,000 to the signature-gathering campaign organizers in Sacramento. The lawsuit demanded to know the identity of the donor. A court hearing had been scheduled for Monday, but Hansen’s identity was disclosed Friday.