Arizona Republic: Scottsdale Mayor Will Repay Fiesta Bowl for Fundraiser Cost

By Mark Henley, The Arizona Republic

Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane said he will repay money to the Fiesta Bowl for the cost of a 2009 fundraiser it conducted for him, which Lane's campaign failed to include in campaign finance reports at the time.

The Lane fundraiser was among a litany of questionable - and possibly illegal - spending by the Fiesta Bowl outlined in a scathing report released this week.

In addition, Lane told The Arizona Republic he is willing to return other campaign contributions he received from the Fiesta Bowl if asked, amid allegations that bowl officials violated campaign finance laws by reimbursing its employees for donations they made to a host of political figures, an apparent effort to circumvent state law that limits how much an individual can contribute.

Nothing in the report suggests candidates were aware of such impropriety by bowl officials.

"If somebody were to ask me for some money back owed to them, or frankly that was inappropriate, I would direct the (campaign) committee to send" it back, Lane said.

Lane is not the only current for former Scottsdale-area elected official whose name surfaced in the report.

State Sen. Michele Reagan, R-Scottsdale, told The Republic she regrets participating in a cross-country trip with other legislators paid for by the Fiesta Bowl. But she maintains she did nothing illegal by traveling with her husband to Boston in 2008.

State records show she filed a financial disclosure form reporting the trip as required of state lawmakers.

On Thursday, Lane told The Republic he plans to repay a $1,186 catering charge paid by the Fiesta Bowl and other charges for a 2009 fundraiser conducted in his behalf.

Records show Lane's campaign failed to disclose the fundraiser as an "in-kind" contribution in his campaign finance reports.

Lane and other area politicians were among 23 candidates to receive campaign contributions from the Fiesta Bowl over the past decade, according to the report. The report alleges a system where employees made individual donations to candidates, and then were reimbursed by the Fiesta Bowl.

The report also outlined lavish spending by bowl executives for questionable and personal expenses for which they were reimbursed by the organization.

In some cases, politicians failed to disclose certain gifts from the Fiesta Bowl in their financial-disclosure statements, The Republic has found.
Failure to disclose

In January 2009, the bowl paid to cater a political fundraiser in behalf of Lane at the Fiesta Bowl Museum in Scottsdale, the report said. The Fiesta Bowl's headquarters is at the Scottsdale Waterfront near Scottsdale and Camelback roads.

The bowl reimbursed former Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker for the $1,186 charge to cater Lane's fundraiser, and never paid a $250 per night fee to rent the museum space for any political events, the report alleged.

Junker was fired by the Fiesta Bowl this week.

The candidates' campaign committees are required to disclose such gifts as in-kind contributions in their financial disclosure statements.

But campaign finance forms indicate that Lane's committee failed to disclose the fundraiser or pay expenses.

State law defines an in-kind contribution as "a contribution of goods or services or anything of value and not a monetary contribution."

Mike Manson, former treasurer of Lane's campaign committee, said the committee plans to pay the bill. He said one of two things should have happened: The committee should have known and disclosed the amount of the fundraiser as an in-kind contribution; or it should have received a bill from the Fiesta Bowl and paid it.

"The current approach is to get a bill from the Fiesta Bowl and pay it," Manson said.

Lane told The Republic his campaign committee never received a bill for the costs incurred from the fundraiser, which Fiesta Bowl officials offered to host.

"If they (the Fiesta Bowl) had incurred costs, they would have submitted a bill . . . , and we would have paid it and disclosed" the costs, he said.

Lane said he planned to submit a check to the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday for the $1,186 catering charge and $250 museum rental fee.
A trip for legislators

Reagan attended a 2008 legislative trip at the expense of the bowl to learn about the Bowl Championship Series and its economic impact on Arizona, she said.

In a telephone interview, Reagan told The Republic she regrets the decision knowing now the questioned practices of the Fiesta Bowl. But the trip was not illegal, she said.

According to the bowl report, the Fiesta Bowl flew legislators and some of their families to Boston. Among them was Reagan's husband, it said.

A financial disclosure statement filed with the secretary of state, dated January 2009 and reviewed by The Republic, shows that Reagan disclosed the trip as a gift, which is required of elected officials when a gift or combination of gifts exceeds $500.

When asked about her husband's participation in the trip, Reagan replied, "According to the law, there is nothing illegal about it."

"I believe everybody had a family member that was there, whether a spouse or child or significant other," she said.

Reagan noted that, apart from airfare and a hotel room, much of the trip was paid for out of her own pocket.

The educational part of the trip was a dinner presentation titled "BCS Football: An Economic Engine for Arizona," according to the report.

"There were a lot of things I didn't understand about the Fiesta Bowl, and bowls in general," said Reagan, adding that the educational component taught her about the economic impact and inner workings of the Fiesta Bowl and the four BCS bowls in general.

"It was a great trip, a wonderful experience," Reagan said. "Looking back, had I known the Fiesta Bowl was breaking rules in other areas, I wouldn't have gone. At the time, I didn't think there was anything wrong about it."

Other recipients of Fiesta Bowl contributions, according to the report, included former Scottsdale Mayor Mary Manross and former state Sen. Carolyn Allen, whose district covered Fountain Hills, Rio Verde and Scottsdale.

Allen and Manross did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

The report said there was no indication that candidates who received the donations from Fiesta Bowl employees knew of the reimbursed contributions made by the organization.

The original article can be viewed here.