Arizona’s two U.S. senators will not return campaign contributions to the Fiesta Bowl that were made in the names of employees and their families.
Aides to both John McCain and Jon Kyl said the senators were not aware that the people who had made the donations had been reimbursed by the Fiesta Bowl. Such a move is illegal.
McCain got $19,500 over several election cycles; Kyl was the beneficiary of $3,000 in campaign funds.
McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said Tuesday her senator “has always complied with all appropriate rules and regulations for political contributions.’’ And she said that he has a procedure for dealing with questionable donations.
“As we have done in the past ... the contributions were donated to Arizona charities, specifically Arizona Boys and Girls clubs,’’ Buchanan told Capitol Media Services.
Kyl is following a similar path.
In a letter to Nathan Hochman, the Fiesta Bowl’s attorney, the senator said it would make no sense to write a check to the organization that Hochman represents.
“I do not believe it would be appropriate to give money to the Fiesta Bowl, given its admission of improper conduct,’’ Kyl wrote.
“In the past when I have learned that funds have been improperly contributed to my campaign, I have donated them to charity,’’ Kyl wrote in the letter obtained Tuesday by Capitol Media Services. “And since the Fiesta Bowl now acknowledges impropriety, that’s what I will do.’’
All totaled, the Fiesta Bowl is trying to recoup more than $48,225 in what the report said were improper campaign contributions.
Gov. Jan Brewer also was the beneficiary of some of those Fiesta Bowl donations.
“I did nothing wrong,’’ the governor said Tuesday. “I accepted donations.’’
She said any crime committed was by those who made the contributions and got reimbursed.
But unlike the two senators, there will be no charitable donations.
“I was a ‘clean campaign’ candidate,’’ the governor said Tuesday, getting public funds for last year’s campaign.
The cash she got was in “seed money,’’ which even publicly financed candidates can accept. Those funds eventually got combined with the more than $2.1 million she got to run her campaign.
But Brewer said that after all the bills were paid, she returned what was left in the account — less than $17 — to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission as required by law.
“They can go to Clean Elections and get their money,’’ Brewer said of the request for return of the donations.
The commission, however, has no plans to send any funds to the Fiesta Bowl.
Those donations were turned up as part of an internal investigation by the bowl. More than $15,000 of the donations came from John Junker, who was executive director until he was ousted.
That report also found what it called thousands of dollars of funds spent inappropriately.
Hochman has said that the effort to recoup the wrongfully donated funds is part of the ongoing effort to reform the practices of the Fiesta Bowl.
The Bowl Championship Series has fined the Fiesta Bowl $1 million but opted not to revoke its status as one of four bowls, which, on a rotating basis, hosts the national championship game.