Anti-BCS group upset with bowl's donation to Hayworth

A major college football bowl game's donation to a political candidate is an improper use of its money, a group said Friday.

The Fiesta Bowl, one of four major Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games, gave former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) $2,000 to help retire his legal debt in advance of his primary challenge of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

PlayoffPAC, a political group that wants a playoff system to replace the BCS, said Friday that the contribution should spark an investigation into the bowl's political activity.

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"This news is just the latest in a line of questionable activities by the BCS's Fiesta Bowl," PlayoffPAC spokesman Matt Martinez said in an e-mail. " In the past few months, it's been reported that the Fiesta Bowl has spent $4 million on boondoggles and may also be illegally reimbursing employees’ political contributions.  It's time for public officials to examine this taxpayer-subsidized entity's books and scrutinize them for other potential tax and campaign finance violations."

The group is highlighting the contribution, which was made under the name "Arizona Sports Foundation," in an effort to revive a probe into the bowl game. 

College football's bowl system came between the cross hairs of some members of Congress last year who want it replaced with a playoff system. The BCS has pushed back against government efforts to change the system saying it is outside their purview.

PlayoffPAC filed a complaint with the Arizona Secretary of State on the eve of the Fiesta Bowl in December, saying that some of their political activities violate Arizona and federal campaign finance law that bans the funneling of corporate campaign contributions through individuals.

The group said it is going to follow up on the complaint Monday.

A report in the Arizona Republic said that bowl officials encouraged several Fiesta Bowl employees to write checks to politicians friendly to the bowl and that the bowl reimbursed them.

The Republic also reported that McCain received funds from the bowl in the past. 

The group says there is no indication that Hayworth or McCain did anything wrong by accepting the money.

An investigator hired by the bowl cleared it of any wrongdoing in December but Playoff PAC has said that their inquiry is insufficient. 

"I don't know of any time in my employment that I have gone to someone and asked them to make a contribution and said, 'We will reimburse you,'" Fiesta Bowl President and CEO John Junker said.