Arizona Advocacy Network

Government of, by and for the People

Gov. Jan Brewer is riding to the rescue of the Fiesta Bowl, forming a task force to rehab the disgraced bowl's image.

Or put another way, Gov. Jan Brewer . . . whose campaign co-chairman Grant Woods led the 10-minute $55,000 Fiesta Bowl investigation that found "no credible evidence" of wrongdoing . . .

. . . Whose son worked for Woods on the probe . . .

. . . Whose campaign adviser Chuck Coughlin was a Fiesta Bowl lobbyist, pulling down hundreds of thousands of dollars . . .

. . . wants to fix this mess.

"I will focus my attention upon the restoration of the Fiesta Bowl," Brewer said on Monday.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Tom Horne is also hard at work on l'affaire Fiesta.

Or put another way, Attorney General Tom Horne . . . who got $500 in campaign contributions last year from Gary Husk, the Fiesta Bowl lobbyist who "helped" Woods with his investigation . . .

. . . Who got $700 for his AG run from Coughlin and Fiesta Bowl lobbyist Doug Cole . . .

. . . Who last week threw a fundraiser hosted in part by Cole, Coughlin and, of all people, Woods . . .

. . . is investigating the Fiesta Bowl.

Horne on Tuesday told me he saw no problem with Woods - who last fall supported Horne's Democratic opponent - serving as a host for his March 28 fundraiser. To suggest that he should turn over the investigation to someone else, Horne said, is "out of line."

"You've known me for 30 years. You've never known me to do anything dishonest," he said. "I have 1,600 contributors. Every one of them is subject to being investigated if he or she does something wrong. The idea that out of 1,600 contributors that I would be conflicted from all of them, it's ridiculous."

I don't know if Horne would be conflicted from investigating all of them. But it's certainly not out of line to suggest that a prosecutor who inherits an investigation might want to refrain from inviting a likely focus of that investigation to host his fundraiser.

That Horne doesn't see that is surprising.

Just as it's surprising that Brewer doesn't see that the Fiesta Bowl's image is best left to people outside of politics, given the sizable number of freeloaders and spongers running around the state Capitol.

Brewer should instead focus on outlawing political freebies and putting some teeth into the no-free-tickets and financial-disclosure laws that should lead to trouble for a fair number of legislators - but likely won't.

As for fixing the Fiesta Bowl, that may be best left to the men who founded the organization four decades ago.

"We were deeply involved, acutely aware of and closely monitored the activities of committees, the executive director and the staff," says a column signed by all seven living members of that nine-member board.

In the column, which appears on today's Opinions page, the founders call the Fiesta fiasco "disgusting" and heap blame on now-former CEO John Junker. But they also call into question the current 27-member board of directors - a board that includes the publisher of this newspaper, John Zidich.

This "letterhead board," as the founders call it, long ago ceded its powers to Junker. Despite that, the founders lauded the current chairman, Duane Woods, for initiating "intelligent sweeping changes" after a staffer blew the whistle in September.

One can only wonder how different things would look today had Woods and the rest of the rubber stamps been paying attention before the staffer spoke up.

While making sweeping changes now is commendable, some of that sweeping needs to be directed at some, if not all, of the board.

That is, if the Fiesta is to return to the glory days - when it was about playing football and building a community rather than playing political footsie and building a million-dollar expense account.

As Brewer correctly noted in her call to repair the Fiesta Bowl's image, "there can be no excuses."

I am reminded of the Phoenix bird which periodically must be reborn of its own ashes before it can soar again.

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