A former Fiesta Bowl lobbyist who pleaded guilty to failing to disclose costs from a 2008 trip that sent nine lawmakers to Boston has agreed to cooperate with investigators and testify in grand jury proceedings and in any possible trials.
The Arizona Republic reports that John MacDonald’s misdemeanor plea means he will face no jail time if he cooperates. MacDonald also agreed to pay a fine of up to $4,600.
In his plea agreement, MacDonald admitted committing the crime as part of his work with Husk Partners and Gary Husk, the lobbying firm’s owner.
Current and former Fiesta Bowl employees have alleged that Husk was involved in a scheme in which employees were reimbursed with bowl funds for making political campaign contributions. Husk, a former state and federal prosecutor, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
MacDonald, the first lobbyist to plead guilty in the scandal, worked at Husk’s firm for just over a decade, leaving on March 31, 2011.
MacDonald joins six current or former Fiesta Bowl employees, including ex-bowl CEO John Junker, who have pleaded guilty to state or federal crimes stemming from bowl investigations.
All except MacDonald were charged with involvement in the scheme in which bowl employees were reimbursed for making campaign contributions, which is illegal.
It’s unclear when MacDonald made his plea, though a copy of his plea deal shows that a prosecutor signed off on the deal last week.
The Arizona Republic first reported the Fiesta Bowl campaign-contribution scheme in December 2009, and the bowl’s independent investigation released in March 2011 confirmed the newspaper’s findings. It also disclosed additional details of widespread financial irregularities and questionable trips furnished to legislators.
During the past decade, the Fiesta Bowl took lawmakers on expensive out-of-state trips in an effort to get them to consider or pass legislation that benefited the college football postseason game.
MacDonald, according to the plea agreement, admitted falsely signing a “Principal Annual Report of Lobbying Expenditures” in 2009 as a bowl lobbyist.
Under Arizona law, benefits paid to or on behalf of individual lawmakers must be reported by identifying the recipients and the amounts spent on each. Lobbyists do not have to identify individual lawmakers by name when an entire legislative body or the whole assembly is invited to what the law calls a “special event.”
The attorney general’s office said that MacDonald reported expenses benefiting the nine legislators who went on the Boston trip as “special event” expenses that did not need to be itemized, when in fact they were not. The nine legislators were not members of any one committee, and the entire Legislature had not been invited to Boston.
“I signed the report without double-checking its accuracy, and for that I’m very sorry,” MacDonald said in a statement he sent to The Arizona Republic.
His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 21 before Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Reinstein.