Lobbyist Gary Husk pleaded guilty Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court to taking part in a scheme to make illegal campaign contributions, but left the court feeling he had been absolved of any wrongdoing related to the Fiesta Bowl.
Husk and his firm, Husk Partners Inc., each pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of conspiring to commit prohibited contributions. The plea deal calls for him to pay a $30,000 fine to offset the cost of the investigation. He will be sentenced up to three years of probation and won’t go to jail. Additionally, 15 felony counts will be dismissed.
Most importantly to Husk, though, was that the attorney general agreed to not seek any charges related to the Fiesta Bowl after disgraced CEO
John Junker named him as the mastermind of the scandal in which bowl employees were reimbursed for political contributions.
He said he felt vindicated.
“The law enforcement investigation proved I was not involved in any of the Fiesta Bowl activity,” Husk said.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the plea was beneficial to the state because Husk is being held accountable while preventing an expensive trial that offered no guarantee of a felony conviction.
“If you walk into a court and plead guilty to something and feel vindicated, I guess you have a different reckoning of what vindication means,” Grisham said.
Husk admitted to agreeing with Husk Partners employees to make campaign contributions over a 2.5 year span to various political candidates, which he characterized after court as “technical violations.” The contributions were for small amounts ranging from $140 to $200 to campaigns at every level from city council to governor.
“I certainly accepted responsibility for the fact there were some technical violations among my employees. It was certainly not anything I was personally involved in, it’s never been alleged I ever had any type of reimbursements at all, but I was responsible for managing the firm and making sure people complied with the law,” Husk said.
The bowl conducted a separate internal investigation in December 2010 and found a scheme dating back to 2000 to reimburse employees $46,539 for political contributions.
The internal investigation found a conspiracy to conceal the scheme from state officials and the board of directors.
Junker pleaded guilty in 2012 in federal and state courts to fraud in connection to the Fiesta Bowl scheme. He will be sentenced to prison to up to 2.5 years.
Superior Court Judge Margaret Mahoney set Husk’s sentencing for Jan. 27.