Hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, the driving force behind the effort to bring the NBA back to Seattle, has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for failing to report his financing of a signature gathering campaign aiming to block a new arena in Sacramento.
Hansen was found to have donated $100,000 to a committee hoping to gather enough signatures for a ballot measure that would have required voters to approve public funding for a new arena.
In a statement issued Monday, Hansen said it was never his intention to “either directly fund signature gathering or to be the primary financial sponsor of the opposition’s efforts.” Rather, Hansen said he had agreed his lawyers could give the money to arena opponents “if a broad-based political committee, consisting of other donors and independent of STOP, were established to oppose the effort to build an arena in Sacramento.”
Hansen had previously apologized after his donation was revealed last month. In his statement, he said while he hoped to clear up “misconceptions” about his involvement with Sacramento arena opposition, “it should not be taken as an attempt to deflect criticism from the mistakes I clearly made.”
Hansen, who partnered with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and other local leaders in a failed effort to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to a proposed new arena in Seattle, said he regretted getting “caught up in the competitive dynamics of this situation” and should never have helped fund arena opposition efforts “under any circumstances.”
He reiterated his promise to stay out of the Sacramento arena fight going forward. And he said he would take steps to keep arena opponents from using the signatures gathered thanks to his donation.
Along with Hansen, political consultant Brandon Powers and treasurer Lysa Ray of Citizens for a Voice in Government agreed to pay the penalty, according to Fair Political Practices Commission records released Monday and obtained by the Sacramento Bee.
The settlement was announced on the same day a Washington State Court of Appeals panel ruled tentative plans for a new arena in Seattle do not violate state environmental law, rejecting a challenge brought by longshore workers.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 sued, saying traffic congestion from basketball and hockey games would kill jobs because it would interfere with container shipping and related businesses nearby.
The longshoremen said a memorandum of understanding between Hansen and city and county officials violated the State Environmental Protection Act by creating irreversible momentum for building the arena, even before environmental studies were performed.
But a three-judge Court of Appeals panel unanimously disagreed Monday, upholding a lower court’s ruling from February. The panel said the memorandum merely sets out how the decision over whether to build the arena will be made.
“The memorandum does not license, fund, or undertake an activity that will directly modify the environment, nor does it purchase, sell, lease, transfer or exchange natural resources,” the court wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report