Group says Sugar Bowl violated law

WASHINGTON -- The Sugar Bowl acknowledged it made several campaign donations to then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana in the mid-2000s -- in violation of federal tax law -- and a group has filed a complaint about the matter with the IRS.

Sugar Bowl spokesman John Sudsbury said Tuesday that bowl representatives mistakenly bought tickets for fundraising dinners for the Democratic governor in 2004 and 2006, totaling $3,000. He said the bowl found records of the donations, which were first documented by HBO's "Real Sports," part of a segment on the "bowl game money trail" set to air Tuesday night.

But Louisiana campaign records reviewed by The Associated Press list Sugar Bowl donations to Blanco in 2004, 2005 and 2006, totaling $5,000. The bowl said that its auditors have concluded the report of the 2005 donation is inaccurate.

Playoff PAC, which wants college football to switch to a playoff system to determine the national championship, said it had filed a complaint with the IRS late Monday. In another complaint filed last year, Playoff PAC alleged that the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls violated their tax-exempt status by inappropriate spending and other activities. The bowls -- along with the Rose Bowl -- are the premier postseason college football games and rotate hosting the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Earlier this year, the Fiesta Bowl fired its president after an investigation detailed lavish spending and reimbursements to employees for campaign donations in Arizona.

The newest revelation about the Sugar Bowl, said PAC co-founder Matthew Sanderson, "makes our point: that all of these BCS bowls should be subject to an independent and credible review."

The Sugar Bowl is a nonprofit charitable organization that receives state subsidies, and Sudsbury said bowl policy prohibits participation in any political campaign. Federal tax law also bans tax-exempt charities from participating in politics.

"We have already brought this matter to the attention of the IRS, and we will fully cooperate with them to successfully resolve this matter," he said in a statement.

Sudsbury said that the campaign has refunded the donations, which the bowl will donate to charity.