Imagine in 2008 if Steve Ballmer, Jim Sinegal and partners offering $150 million in private money, were successful in getting the state to authorize public funds to help redo KeyArena for $300 million to keep the Sonics in Seattle.
Next, imagine a public outcry, led by anti-subsidy activist Chris Van Dyk, over using tax dollars without a vote.
Then imagine Oklahoma businessman Clay Bennett secretly funneling $100,000 to help Van Dyk's initiative campaign succeed in creating a city ballot measure.
Finally, imagine disclosure of the law violation, and the subsequent civic red-ass that would ensue for the lowdown country varmint who dared to interfere deceitfully with Seattle's cherished process of political transparency and accountability.
In light of events, it's not that hard to imagine, is it? That is what is so disreputable about Chris Hansen's foolish attempt to influence a vote in Sacramento: It's what Bennett would have done.
Hansen's stealthy, presumably illegal, attempt to influence a political issue in Sacramento is behavior of a kind so artfully exposed in "Sonicsgate," the award-winning documentary film about the Sonics' relocation to Oklahoma City and the manipulations, prevarications and chicanery among Bennett, Howard Schultz and the NBA monopolists to achieve their desired outcome.
If a "Sonicsgate" viewer felt moral outrage at being lied to and manipulated, the same feeling should attend what Hansen attempted to do to another marketplace. Sure, there is a question of degree, but not of kind.
So please, Sonics fans, stop already with the bogus moral equivalencies. Enough with excusing Hansen's deed by saying it's politics as usual, or high finance as usual, or the NBA was dirtier with Seattle's bid than Hansen was with Sacramento.
Apparently AFTER the rejection by NBA owners of his bid to buy the Kings in mid-May, Hansen had a Los Angeles law firm — one used by the dubious Maloof family that owned the team — wire his money to a Sacramento anti-arena group that was gathering signatures to put the public contribution subject to a citywide vote in June 2014.
None among Hansen, the law firm or the anti-arena group disclosed the source of the June 21 donation by the July 31 deadline. At least Hansen is not hiding behind some excuse of clerical error. In his written explainer issued Friday, Hansen said he did it — a mistake he regretted.
Yet, even in owning up, he fell short. I consider a mistake the adding of two and two and getting five. This was calculated deception that came to light through basic document-checking. And regretting an action after the fact is not the same as apologizing for it, which he did not do.
It's the kind of oily response I would expect from Bennett, NBA commissioner David Stern and many other sports executives who get caught. For many Sonics fans, that is the worst part of this development — the disclosure that Chris Hansen is one of those guys.
Apart from the legal issue and the ethical problems, what Hansen has done is force his supporters to engage in all sorts of oral gymnastics to justify Hansen's tactics because, well, um, he's our guy, and he wants what we want, and he has the means and method to create an arena and buy a team.
During a visit to Seattle May 27, Hansen did interviews with KING5 TV and KJR-AM radio in which he discussed his post-vote feelings and the future. Even he admitted to some degree of repulsion at the turn of events.
“I’m not going to wrestle (another) team away ... be a predator,” Hansen told KJR. “The Seattle-Sacramento fight made us all uncomfortable. It made me sick to my stomach ... ‘How did I get myself in this position?’”
Yet he wasn't made so ill that he couldn't continue to seek to undermine Sacramento's arena project to enhance his own in Seattle. Nor was he doing what he asked his supporters to do.
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