by Dan Gibson
The New York Times article blowing the lid off the seemingly massive corruption at the Fiesta Bowl, leading to nearly everyone in leadership either quitting or getting fired today, is fascinating enough, but one interesting aspect who was also named in the report:
The report highlighted several trips to Chicago, Boston and elsewhere that the Fiesta Bowl hosted for several Arizona politicians and their families. Anthony Aguilar, the Fiesta Bowl’s director of community and corporate relations, told investigators that the trips were meant to be educational and to show legislators the importance of college football and the Fiesta Bowl to the Arizona economy.
One of the beneficiaries of the trips was Russell Pearce, the State Senate president, a Republican who has gained a national profile over the past year for writing Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Pearce and his wife traveled to Chicago in 2005 to attend a Northwestern-Michigan game and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton. He and his wife also traveled to Boston on a similar trip with his son in 2008, according to the report.
Pearce did not return calls for comment.
Angela Holt, one of the bowl’s financial officers, told investigators she found no documentation to show the politicians reimbursed the bowl for the cost of the trips.
The report does not say what exactly the bowl might have been seeking with its favors to the elected officials, beyond good will among people of local prominence.
Although the New York Times stuck to the big fish on the list, the Chicago trip also included Arizona State Senators Linda Aguirre, Robert Blendu, and Linda Lopez from the Arizona House of Representatives. Along for the ride to Boston, Robert Blendu, David Bradley, Rich Crandell, Linda Lopez, David Lujan, Robert Meza, Michelle Reagan, and Thayer Verschoor.
[Update: I just spoke to Senator Lopez who said she went on the trips because she was invited and she feels it's "important to support the Fiesta Bowl, and to maintain relationships with other conferences...get them pumped up about participating." She said she was unaware of any of the larger issues with how the Fiesta Bowl committee was being run under Junker and that she was confident that "those overseeing it would work out the issues."]
However, Russell Pearce seemed to be a big fan of the Fiesta Bowl's generosity, with his name showing up as having received free tickets to several football games as "gifts".
Also interesting (to me, at least), from the full report, the list of candidates and organizations who received contributions from staffers that were reimbursed using Fiesta Bowl money. Anyone want to guess how long it takes someone from this list to offer to return the donations?:
Arizona Republican Party
Navarro for City Council