For weeks, Chris Hansen has been vilified by Sacramento Kings fans for financing a signature-gathering campaign to force a public vote on the city’s arena subsidy. Now the man who tried to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle is trying to make amends.
On the same day Hansen and two political operatives agreed to pay a $50,000 fine to state election officials for failing to properly report the source of funding behind the ballot measure effort, Hansen announced Monday that he would “take steps to prevent” the signatures his money financed from being used.
In a statement released on his website, Hansen also said a Los Angeles law firm funneled his money to the signature campaign “without my knowledge or consent.” That firm, Loeb & Loeb, paid a Tulare-based company $80,000 in June to dispatch campaign workers in Sacramento to collect petitions, according to state election regulators.
Hansen said he told Loeb & Loeb that $100,000 of his money could be used to fund an arena opposition campaign in Sacramento if “a broad-based political committee, consisting of other donors and independent of STOP (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork), were established to oppose the effort to build an arena in Sacramento.” He said he gave permission for his money to be used before May 15, when the NBA Board of Governors shot down his attempt to buy the Kings.
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“While I believe this explanation should go a long ways in clearing up many of the misconceptions surrounding my involvement with Sacramento arena opposition, it should not be taken as an attempt (to) deflect criticism from the mistakes I clearly made,” Hansen said. “I take a lot of pride in trying to do things the right way in my life, and I simply should not have allowed myself to get caught up in the competitive dynamics of this situation and never should have agreed to commit any funds to the Sacramento arena opposition – under any circumstances.”
STOP, the group that has led the local effort behind a proposed June 2014 ballot measure requiring voter approval of sports arena subsidies, responded by saying it would send a letter to Hansen insisting that the signatures he funded either be provided to the group or be filed directly with city officials.
“Those are legal signatures, and the group holding them is legally required to hand them over to the petition proponents,” said STOP spokesman John Hyde.
STOP has until the middle of December to file 22,000 valid signatures from registered city voters to qualify its measure for the ballot. The group opposes the city’s decision to commit $258 million in public money toward the $448 million arena proposed for Downtown Plaza.
Hyde said he did not know where the signatures gathered with Hansen’s money are located and a Hansen spokesman said he would not comment beyond the statement published on Hansen’s website. It’s unclear how many signatures were gathered with Hansen’s money, and who has possession of them at the moment.
Tom Hiltachk, a Sacramento-based attorney who has been involved in many local and state initiative campaigns, said Hansen has the right to hold on to the petitions since his money paid for the signature collection – assuming he has control of them.
“If the signatures were not paid for by the proponents (STOP), they are Chris Hansen’s to do with what he will,” he said.
Even without the Hansen signatures, Hyde said STOP would continue its effort and will begin using its own paid signature gatherers, funded by a recent influx in donations. He said volunteers would continue to collect signatures in the central city and that paid workers would concentrate on neighborhoods outside the city core.
In the meantime, Hansen’s fine will require the approval of the Fair Political Practices Commission board, which is scheduled to vote on the issue at its Sept. 19 meeting. Hansen agreed to pay the fine along with political consultant Brandon Powers and treasurer Lysa Ray of Citizens for a Voice in Government, the political committee that controlled the Hansen donation, according to an FPPC report. The money will go to the state general fund.
According to the FPPC, Powers arranged for $80,000 from Hansen to be paid to a signature-gathering company called GOCO. The money was given to GOCO through a wire transfer from Loeb & Loeb, the FPPC said.
Loeb & Loeb represented the Maloofs when the family agreed to sell the Kings to Hansen. The Maloofs were not involved in the contribution, however.
A Loeb & Loeb spokesman Monday said the firm would not comment.
Hansen, Powers and Ray were ordered to pay a fine because the payment to GOCO was made in June, but not reported before a July 31 deadline to file campaign finance activity through the first six months of the year.