Chris Hansen would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids

After days of speculation over who the mystery funder was who’d given tens of thousands of dollars to the campaign to hold a public vote on the Sacramento Kings arena deal — the conduit for the donation was the law firm of the Maloof brothers, ex-owners of the Kings — late on Friday the mask was pulled off to reveal … would-be Seattle NBA owner Chris Hansen?!? Ruh?

Amid a lawsuit and a state investigation, Hansen and an Orange County political action committee filed documents revealing Hansen contributed $100,000 to the petition drive on June 21 – a month after the NBA board of governors vetoed his plan to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle.

Hansen apologized for the donation on Friday and said he wouldn’t give the anti-arena effort any more money. But the revelation seemed likely to damage the petition drive – and Hansen’s own efforts to bring the NBA back to Seattle.

Or as Deadspin put it more succinctly:

So it turns out that the guy who tried to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle is kind of a giant scumbag. Huh, how about that.

Hansen immediately said that he regretted the donation, explaining that he got “caught up in the heat of battle.” (Forgetting to file his campaign finance paperwork until threatened with a lawsuit was, no doubt, part of the fog of war.) But that’s not likely to help mend bridges with the NBA, which had previously said nice things about Hansen and hinted at him eventually getting an expansion team, but which is now almost certainly going to take him off their Christmas card list now that he’s funding opponents to their hard-won $334 million arena-subsidy deal. And some Seattle columnists (okay, one Seattle columnist, but one who’d previously praised Hansen’s arena deal) are saying that that city’s council should take a hard look at whether it wants to be partners on an arena plan with a guy who resorts to secret campaign donations.

It’s a huge, huge shooting-yourself-in-the-foot moment for Hansen. And it makes me wonder whether it’s possible that there’s another explanation for how Hansen expected to spend $400 million on a new arena plus $521 million for majority ownership of the team plus a league relocation fee: Maybe the guy’s just nuts. Or, more specifically, maybe in the “heat of battle” he loses track of sensible financial decisions the same way he loses track of campaign finance laws, and can’t resist throwing in a few more million for the chance of walking away with the prize.

Yes, Hansen is a successful investment titan, but it’s not like those folks are immune to doing dumb things based on not much more than hoping everything will turn out okay. That his Seattle NBA plan came down to similar wishcasting is a possibility, anyway, not that at this point we’re likely to find out — at least, not unless he sends David Stern one hell of a fruitcake.

10 comments on “Chris Hansen would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids

  1. CA’s Fair Political Practices Commission has been doing a good job of making sure people file their campaign disclosure paperwork. CA takes disclosure very seriously.

  2. See this line in the Sac Bee article (link above in Neil’s text):
    “The first $80,000 of Hansen’s money went to a Tulare political consultant, Paul Olson, who was in charge of the petition drive.”

    Olsen’s firm hires paid signature gatherers. That’s why this petition drive was so expensive. It needn’t have been. If the people of Sacramento really want to vote on the arena deal, then there should be enough volunteers to collect signatures. The petitioners shouldn’t need to spend so much hiring paid signature gatherers. And accepting money from outsiders just gives residents an ‘ick’ feeling.

  3. @SantaClaraTaxPayer. Are you sure that is an accurate comment? Every single signature gatherer I’ve ever interacted with has been paid. I am not saying all signature gathers are paid but the more successful ones seem to be paid. This is consistent when I’ve lived in California, Washington and Nevada. What Hansen did was sleezy but it is not uncommon for outside money to fund local political issues.

    Anybody know how much beyond the 80K was raised?

  4. Our experience here in Santa Clara has been that when it’s really an initiative/referendum that local people really want to see on the ballot, volunteers will step up to do the bulk of the signature gathering.

    However, most of the signature gatherers I’ve seen have been paid – often they have multiple petitions spread out on a table in high traffic areas such as outside of grocery stores. Often those petitions are funded by some special interest group – not a grassroots organization of voters who really want the chance to vote on something.

  5. Take a look at the recall petition in San Diego for an example of how volunteers can help collect signatures (to recall their mayor). When people are motivated to want a chance to vote on an issue, volunteers will come forward.

  6. As a Seattle resident that does not want the NBA anywhere near this town I take this as a positive development. Yeah, that sounds flippant but I am actually quite serious.

  7. This is a colossal mistake for a guy with Hansen’s cash to make. It looked to me like there weren’t all that many roadblocks left for him to get an expansion team except perhaps time… well, he’s thrown up another one and paid for the privilege of doing so.

    Very weird. How stupid can you be?

  8. The story probably gets better, the organization Hansen gave the money to is called “Citizens For A Voice In Government, Major Funding By Investment Manager” and it’s not registered yet, despite them apparently taking the money. Would Hansen be so foolish to actually have created a mysterious PAC and not registered that as well ?