The Hansen Show

Anthony Cogswell / September 3, 2013

By Alex Fryer


The Chris Hansen story ended in a cliffhanger: how will Seattle politicians, a particularly scandal-averse bunch, react to Hansen’s Sacramento election hijinks?

Hansen, the hedge fund manager turned Sonics savior, was like a magnet for positive energy. And with just a little public help, Hansen told the community, he could put together a team/stadium package that would have us all celebrating professional basketball championships. Trouble is, he doesn’t have a team.

That’s where the politics got dicey. The Sacramento team was for sale, Hansen bought it, but then lost it to another group that pledged to keep the team in Sacramento, if the public built a new stadium, with no public vote. Local opposition groups sprouted up demanding an election. If the Sacramento arena deal fell apart, the NBA might reconsider a move to Seattle, according to conventional wisdom.

Hansen said he paid his lawyers to research arena opponents. He said he was then approached by them via his attorneys to make a donation to their cause.

But Hansen didn’t join the established opposition. Instead, he wrote a $100,000 check to a brand-new group called “Citizens for a Voice in Government.” He didn’t disclose his contribution, and ran afoul of California election law.

“These are as sophisticated parties as you can get and they should know better,” said Gary Winuk, of the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Except for people who didn’t like Hansen’s proposal in the first place, public reaction in Seattle seems muted. Perhaps local elected officials will decide to sit on the bench and let the NBA process drag on. There’s no need to pass judgment on Hansen if there’s no team to discuss. But after all the rallies, debates, and council votes, it seems vaguely like the show was cancelled mid-season.