Current and former employees of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl said they were encouraged to donate money to specific political candidates and were reimbursed by the bowl through bonus payments, an allegation the bowl game's CEO denies, The Arizona Republic reported.
The newspaper reported that five current and former high-level employees of the bowl game, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they made contributions at the urging of Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker and were reimbursed through bonus checks. Three of the five said they were reimbursed after giving to specific candidates.
The donations totaled more than $38,000, according to the report.
State and federal campaign laws prohibit corporations from funneling corporate donations to political campaigns through individuals.
"If employees are giving contributions and they were being reimbursed, it's illegal, and it's something we definitely would review," state elections director Amy Bjelland said, according to the report.
But Junker said the employees never were reimbursed and that the bowl game did not orchestrate donations, the Republic reported.
"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,' " Junker said, according to the report.
Junker said he has made personal contributions to Arizona legislators to "protect" the Fiesta Bowl, which has had running disputes with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which operates University of Phoenix Stadium. The sports authority has sued the Fiesta Bowl, claiming it is owed $400,000 for previous game-day expenses, according to the report.
The Fiesta Bowl is part of the Bowl Championship Series and is in the four-year rotation to host the BCS National Championship Game.
According to the report, Fiesta Bowl officials have said they are concerned the Cotton Bowl, which has moved out of its namesake building to brand-new Cowboys Stadium, could bump the Fiesta Bowl out of the top-four BCS rotation. The Fiesta Bowl was founded in 1971, while the Cotton Bowl and the other BCS bowl games have much longer histories in a sport where tradition often holds sway.
The Arizona Republic is a longtime sponsor of the Fiesta Bowl, and the newspaper's president and publisher, John Zidich, is on the Fiesta Bowl board, the newspaper reported.