Tonight, HBO airs a new episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, and presents its investigative report into the finances of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, where the Bowl Championship Series will crown the 2011 BCS National Champion on January 9, 2012.
Among the findings of the investigative report, the Sugar Bowl was shown to have made a total of $5,000 to the election campaign of former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, a Democrat. Two other donations totaling $89.90 were made to a Political Action Committee.
Organized as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Sugar Bowl is prohibited from making such political contributions and appears to have violated federal elections law in doing so.
Here’s a segment from the show, where correspondent Bernie Goldberg interviews Football Bowl Association Spokesman Bruce Bernstien:
Goldberg: According to the IRS laws regarding charities like the Bowls, are they allowed to give money to politicians and political candidates?
Bernstien: No, period.
Goldberg: The Fiesta Bowl, as you know, was caught laundering money to political candidates. And by "laundering money," I mean the Bowl didn't give money to political candidates, employees did and then the employees were reimbursed.
Bernstien: It's not a good thing, but it's an isolated incident. I have never heard of another instance of where a Bowl Organization made a political contribution. And I ask you, Bernie, have you heard of that? Because if someone was foolish enough to do that...
Goldberg: The answer is "yes." Let me interrupt you--the answer is "yes." Louisiana state campaign finance records show several contributions from the Sugar Bowl to the Governor of Louisiana.... You asked me a question...
Bernstien: I'm not familiar with that. But if the organization was foolish enough to have done that, it will get reported and obviously now there are two situations that have been reported.
If there was any good news in the report, it was that the Real Sports investigative team didn’t turn up anything like evidence of a $1,200 strip joint tab, tens of thousands in bogus bonuses paid to employees who funneled the money to political campaigns, a lavish birthday party for the bowl’s CEO, gold coins, cars and other bling thrown around by the Fiesta Bowl. CEO John Junker was fired and the bowl was slapped on the wrist by the BCS.
At first blush, the Sugar Bowl transgressions don’t even carry the Fiesta’s jock strap. The last political contribution shown in the records was $50 to the PAC in 2008. Former Governor Blanco decided not to run for reelection in 2007, and current Republican Governor Bobby Jindal is not shown as a beneficiary of the bowl’s political largesse.
Given the Fiesta’s slap on the wrist last Spring, you can rest assured that the BCS will thank the Sugar Bowl for not going big time.