Fiesta Bowl Scandal Causes Stir

D. WalkerAnalyst IDecember 26, 2009

There seems to be a lot more to running an elite BCS bowl like the Fiesta Bowl than we previously expected.

While this year’s choice of TCU to play Boise State in the annual Fiesta Bowl caused uproar among college football fans, it appears that actions taken by the Fiesta Bowl and their employees may draw even harsher criticism.

It appears that employees of the Fiesta Bowl made donations to politicians who were "friendly" to the Fiesta Bowl, including some donations that very well could be violations of campaign-finance laws.

Past and present employees where encouraged to write checks to specific candidates and then were reimbursed by the bowl.

These reimbursements violate state and federal laws that prohibit the passing of corporate funds to political campaigns through individuals or employees.

More than $38,000 in campaign contributions have been made by the fourteen Fiesta Bowl employees and many of the checks donated by the employees were written on the very same date.

The Arizona Republic has contacted 10 former Fiesta Bowl employees and pulled 10 years of local, state and federal campaign contribution records.

Five former employees have stated that they had made contributions at John Junker's urging and were reimbursed a few weeks later in the form of a "bonus" check.

Junker, CEO of the Fiesta Bowl, denies that employees were reimbursed and also denies that the bowl organized the donations and the Fiesta Bowl denied the Arizona Republic's request to examine the Fiesta Bowl's financial records.

I think somebody is lying or is terribly short on memory.

These donations were made to local politicians, Arizona legislators and members of the United States Congress as well as to the Presidential campaign of John McCain.

I can understand the contributions to local and state office holders but I'm having trouble understanding why a major BCS bowl like the Fiesta would donate to members of the U.S. Congress and to a presidential candidate.

Why would a BCS bowl game donate to U.S. Congressmen and to a presidential candidate?

As a result of the investigation it was also found out that the BCS's Fiesta Bowl hires lobbyists on a regular basis, which brings to mind one other thought. What do the lobbyists lobby for or against?

Now comes the interesting part. The Fiesta Bowl is operated through four non-profit organizations and generates between $25 and 30 million per year.

Last I looked, non profit organizations enjoy a Federal tax-exempt status which means they don't pay Federal taxes.

With the tax-exempt status comes some restrictions and among those are non-profit groups or organizations like the Fiesta Bowl cannot make political contributions.

A non-profit can be required to pay taxes on some expenditures. Like money spent on lobbyists. But in the records uncovered by the Arizona Republic it indicated that the Fiesta bowl doesn't hire lobbyists.

When challenged on the hiring of lobbyists, Junker said that the firms he hires are consultants and not lobbyists even though they may be registered as lobbyists!

Something smell a little like dead fish?

I am not naive enough to lack understanding that these BCS bowls and the BCS itself are not political in nature. I don't care what the BCS says, the Fiesta Bowl selection of TCU and Boise State was pure politics.

It would also appear that BCS bowls spend plenty of money on lobbyists and donations to political campaigns. I wonder why?

The BCS recently hired Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush, who is now the owner of Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. I looked up Mr. Fleischer and can't seem to find one single thing in his past that had the slightest thing to do with sports.

Mr. Fleischer is an expert on media communications by members of Congress and the President of the United States.

So why would the BCS hire such a high profile media pit bull?

Are you beginning to get the same picture that I'm am?

The BCS and their elite bowls appear to be doing a whole lot to make sure that BCS system stays exactly where they want it.

Some suggest that Congress is going to fix the BCS and force them to a playoff system. Think again.

How many members of the U.S. Congress are from states that have BCS conference teams?

How many members of Congress are from states that have non BCS teams?

Any bill dealing with the forcing of the BCS to move to a playoff system will never reach the floor of the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.

Unless the fans of the non BCS schools join together and make not just substantial donations to political campaigns but major donations, there will never be a playoff.

If one wants to understand exactly how Congress works the experts will say “follow the money.”

Does it now appear that if we want to understand why the BCS bowl system will never move to a playoff format, perhaps we should "follow the money?"


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.