Jack Ohman / johman@sacbee.com

Editorial: Mogul, seeking to scuttle arena deal, embarrasses Seattle

Published: Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 - 8:20 am

Talk about a sore loser.

Seattle billionaire Chris Hansen failed earlier this year to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle.

Friday, it was revealed that he was the secret donor bankrolling the effort to sabotage the planned new Kings arena in downtown Sacramento. Hansen and a new political action committee in Orange County filed documents showing that he donated $100,000 to the petition campaign seeking to force a public vote on the arena.

Outrage is an overused word. But this fits the bill.

Hansen had no business trying to buy influence in Sacramento. He issued a lame apology Friday to Kings fans and the city and promised to butt out – after he was found out. His underhanded tactics ought to make other NBA owners very leery about ever letting him buy another team.

This disclosure undoubtedly will undermine the small group of local volunteers who are gathering signatures toward a ballot measure on the public contribution of at least $258 million toward the $448 million arena. They only have themselves to blame – by accepting the signatures gathered by the surreptitious effort, while trying to distance themselves at the same time. The damage is already happening: As many as 1,700 people who signed the petition are seeking to get their names removed.

The unmasking of Hansen came one day after the state Fair Political Practices Commission sued the Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb, demanding to know who donated the $80,000 that the firm sent to petition campaign organizers to pay signature gatherers.

FPPC's enforcement chief Gary Winuk said Friday that there is "no ambiguity" that Hansen was required to disclose the donation and said Hansen broke the law by filing two weeks late. Certainly, Loeb & Loeb knows the rules.

When The Sacramento Bee first reported Saturday on Loeb & Loeb's connection to the $80,000, some suspected the Kings' former owners, the Maloofs, because the law firm had represented them in failed attempts to move the Kings to Seattle and Anaheim before that. Winuk said there is no evidence to suggest the Maloofs are involved.

Hansen's June 21 donation came just weeks after NBA owners vetoed his deal to buy the team from the Maloof family, in favor of a local bid led by Vivek Ranadive.

After the rejection, Hansen told a radio interviewer in Seattle that he felt bad trying to take the Kings from Sacramento's loyal fans. "It kind of made me sick to my stomach," he said.

No, what's really sickening is that secretly he never stopped trying.

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