Gov. Jan Brewer and ‘shadow governor’ Chuck Coughlin ensared in Fiesta Bowl Scandal

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Fiesta Bowl News 12 in Phoenix takes a look at campaign contributions made to Jan Brewer by Fiesta Bowl employees that were illegally reimbursed by the Fiesta Bowl. Arizona's "shadow governor" Chuck Coughlin and his HighGround lobbying firm that ran Jan Brewer's campaign and currently runs the governor's office, was a principal lobbyist for the Fiesta Bowl as well. Coughlin claims he had no knowledge of the reimbursement scheme. He is pulling a Captain Renault in Casablanca, "I'm shocked – SHOCKED – to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: "your winnings, sir."

I'm not buying it. As I've said before, Chuck Coughlin has his fingers on the pulse of all things political in this state. He was too close to what was going on with the Fiesta Bowl – he arranged the trips for legislators after all – not to know. I don't accept his denial at face value. Investigators and reporters should keep digging.

Columnist Laurie Roberts at the Arizona Republic points out the obvious conflict of interest in Trying to fix Fiesta Bowl is not a good fit for Brewer, pals:

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.

* * *

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."

* * *

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.

Don't be so pessimistic, Laurie. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission on Tuesday. Group files FEC complaint against Fiesta Bowl:

In its complaint filed Tuesday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington urged the FEC to declare that the Arizona-based college football game violated federal election laws and to impose sanctions.

The complaint is based on an internal report released by the bowl last week, which found that the Fiesta Bowl reimbursed at least $46,539 in political donations to its employees — an apparent violation of elections laws. The CREW complaint is focused on the federal campaign donations, which it says total $28,500.

It also says the bowl violated federal election laws by using its facilities to host fundraisers for candidates for federal office.

"The question here isn't whether anyone broke the law — independent investigators already found violations — it is whether the FEC will do anything about it," said Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director. She said she didn't think the FEC would take action: "They never do anything about anything."

Melanie Sloan is correct that the FEC has been rendered an ineffective regulator because it has been so politicized, but CREW is a relentless and aggressive watchdog group. This scandal isn't going away anytime soon.

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