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New NBA drama: Chris Hansen secretly funded Sacramento anti-arena effort

While investor Chris Hansen said he had no desire to steal another city’s NBA team after his failed bid to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle, a political watchdog group says Hansen secretly funded an anti-arena effort in Sacramento.

The Sacramento Bee first reported Hansen was “unmasked” Friday as the mystery donor who gave $100,000 to a group gathering signatures for an initiative to thwart a proposed new arena downtown. It was confirmed Friday afternoon by the Fair Political Practices Commission.

It’s being called a “dramatic development,” with some NBA insiders in Sacramento saying it could hurt Hansen’s standing with the league in his ongoing efforts to bring pro basketball back to Seattle.

Hansen’s donation came a month after the NBA voted against his bid to buy the Kings and relocate them. At the time, he said in an interview he regretted the way things went in California and would only vie for another city’s team if it was clear they were leaving anyway.

Hansen’s involvement surfaces one day after the Fair Political Practices Commission sued a Los Angeles law firm demanding identification of the funding source for the petition drive.

“This to us is a glaring example of, at best, negligent and at worst, purposeful deceptive behavior that was aimed at depriving the Sacramento public of knowledge it was entitled to about who is funding campaigns,” said FPPC Enforcement Chief Gary Winuk.

The law firm that wired the money, Loeb & Loeb, has long represented the Maloof family, the former owners of the Kings. There’s no indication the family was involved.

“Chris Hansen and Loeb & Loeb are sophisticated parties. They clearly should have known that disclosure was required in this case,” Winuk said.

While the FPPC will abandon its lawsuit, Winuk said the commission will seek additional penalties against Hansen and the law firm.

Hansen issued a statement late Friday:

“I made a mistake I regret.

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.

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.”

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