Senate leader ups pressure on potential Kings buyers

8:13 AM, Jan 22, 2013   |    comments
Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento
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The leader of the California Senate is using his political muscle in the fight over the Sacramento Kings, seeking to make public all state government dollars paid to Microsoft -- a jab at CEO Steve Ballmer and his involvement in buying the NBA team to move it to Seattle.

"I am troubled that a company and a CEO that has for so long enjoyed a prosperous and beneficial working relationship with the State of California and its taxpayers would blatantly engage in activities which are clearly and measurably detrimental to our state's job and revenue base," writes Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in a letter dated Tuesday to the director of California's Department of General Services (DGS).

(Read the full letter here)

"I cannot stand idly by," he writes, "while a prominent out-of-state company that has significantly profited from business with the State of California actively attempts to acquire and remove one of my state and my region's leading private assets."

Steinberg's letter asks DGS officials to produce documents that show the total number of value of Microsoft's contracts with state government over the past decade, as well as information about the size of California government payments to the Seattle area software corporation relative to other states. The Senate leader also asks for information regarding Microsoft's "record of performance" on its state government contracts.

The letter comes as Sacramento officials scramble to derail a tentative sale of the Kings to a Seattle based partnership including Microsoft's Ballmer and hedge fund manager Chris Hansen. While it offers no specific way to block the sale, the Sacramento Democrat's letter clearly is an attempt to spark a new public relations battle over dollars paid by Californians to a company in which Ballmer owns stock, stock reported last fall as being worth almost $9.8 billion.

In his letter to DGS director Fred Klass, Steinberg says the information about Microsoft's state government contracts, in light of news reports about the sale of the Kings, is "certainly relevant to California taxpayers, particularly those in the Sacramento region."

Steinberg, of course, is no stranger to the long saga of the Sacramento Kings -- having served on the city council during the tumultuous 1997 debate that led to the city loaning money to the NBA team's former owners, as well as serving as a negotiator for the Maloof family in its 2006 effort to strike a deal for a new arena. Steinberg has grown increasingly critical about the Maloofs since then, from pushing legislation in 2011 to demand the city loan repayment during talks to move the team to Anaheim to his declaration last week that Sacramento's relationship with the majority owners was all but over.


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