Fred DuVal Kicks Off Gov Campaign With Ads Featuring Grant Woods, Failed Fiesta Bowl Fiasco Investigator

Fred DuVal's campaign for Arizona governor has been airing campaign ads featuring Republican Grant Woods, a longtime friend and college classmate of DuVal's.

DuVal, the Democratic nominee, is running against Republican Doug Ducey in the November general election.

Sure, Woods, a former Arizona attorney general, may have chaired Governor Jan Brewer's re-election campaign, but he's no hard-line Republican.

See also: -Ex-Lobbyist Charged With Felonies in Alleged Campaign-Contribution Scheme -Fiesta Bowl Scandal: Valley Politicos Won't Face Charges

He's got a track record of endorsing Democratic candidates. Think Felicia Rotellini in 2010 against Tom Horne in the race for state AG.

Given the pair's personal history, including as buddies at Occidental College, it's not surprising that DuVal would choose Woods to head the candidate's "GOP for Fred" initiative.

Isn't it a bit surprising, however, given Woods failed Fiesta Bowl investigation into allegations of campaign-finance corruption within the organization?

Woods found "no credible evidence" to substantiate allegations that the Fiesta Bowl reimbursed its employees for campaign contributions made to various Arizona politicians. And yet, after an actual investigation, the organization's former CEO, John Junker, landed in prison.

"I've always called them as I see them, no matter the cost," Woods wrote in 2011 in a mea culpa column published in the Arizona Republic. "That's been the hallmark of my public service and courtroom career in Arizona; it's part of who I am. That's why it hurts to have to admit that I failed to get the job done at the Fiesta Bowl."

Geoff Vetter, a spokesman for the DuVal campaign, says the campaign asked Woods to kick things off to entice Republican support for DuVal because "Grant Woods is a former attorney general who is respected by both Republicans and Democrats."

And so it goes.

Voters -- and campaigns -- typically have short memories when it comes to most political scandals.

But for those who'd like a stroll down memory lane, here are some details from 276-page investigative report compiled by a special committee formed by the Fiesta Bowl after employees alleged that the initial investigation was a "cover-up."

Woods was hired by the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors -- on the recommendation of Gary Husk, a lobbyist for the organization at the time -- to investigate allegations raised in a Republic article regarding a campaign finance scheme in the organization.

As with DuVal, Woods also had a personal relationship with Husk. When Woods was elected AG, he hired Husk to work for him.

Once Woods' quickie investigation was completed in 2009, he gave an oral presentation to the Board of Directors' Executive Committee. In a conclusion worded in coordination with Husk, Woods said there was "no credible evidence" to support the allegations that employees' campaign contributions had been reimbursed by the Fiesta Bowl.

When allegations persisted, the board formed a special committee to re-investigate the allegations.

Junker's assistant told the chairman of the Fiesta Bowl board that the "earlier investigation had been a cover-up, in that at least Husk knew that the Fiesta Bowl had reimbursed certain individuals for campaign contributions..." according to the investigative report.

Some witnesses said that Woods only interviewed those individuals that Husk handpicked for him.

Husk ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanors for his role in the campaign-finance scandal. He received probation, but has since told various media outlets that he did nothing wrong.

The Arizona State Bar initially opened an investigation into Woods, but it was dropped in short order.

The second set of investigators looked at the same allegations of campaign-finance violations. Unlike Woods, they embarked on a thorough comparison of political contributions and payroll information for numerous Fiesta Bowl employees.

While Woods came back with "no credible evidence" of wrongdoing, the new inquiry revealed a pattern of employees given bonuses or reimbursement checks in exchange for political donations.

In fact, a section in the investigative report is entitled: "The first investigation."

In that portion of the report, Woods explained that although witnesses he interviewed told him they'd been reimbursed, "the reason he chose the phrase 'no credible evidence' when reporting on the results of his investigation was because -- although [the employee] stated he had been reimbursed -- Woods did not believe his allegations were credible."

Investigators also wrote that witnesses told them that Husk handpicked people for Woods to interview. Several key employees who "had given a number of campaign contributions" were not interviewed by Woods, the report stated.

Woods and Husk told different stories to investigators. Husk said Woods selected the interviewees. Woods said he "asked [Husk] to pick the people out. We didn't have time to do everyone."

When Woods was interviewed by investigators conducting the second inquiry, he stated that he couldn't specifically remember anyone doing any comparison of political contributions with bonuses or reimbursements before the December 2009 board meeting. It was at that meeting that Woods delivered the results of his own investigation.

Woods said he personally never compiled any information regarding campaign contributions, according to the report.

The Arizona Secretary of State also probed the campaign-finance-scheme allegations, and eventually turned over the information to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

In a 2010 e-mail to Husk, Woods wrote that "in reviewing the contributions v. bonuses, there is no apparent problem." In their report, investigators questioned how Woods arrived at that conclusion since "it is apparent that there are some bonuses that occur after contributions and certain patterns of contributions and reimbursements."

Woods was paid $55,000 by the Fiesta Bowl for his services; and Woods, in turn, gave $20,000 of that back to Husk -- the guy who convinced the Fiesta Bowl to hired Woods in the first place.

A kickback?

In his Republic column, Woods explained that Husk told him that the Fiesta Bowl was lumping together Husk's payment with Woods.

The full report by the Fiesta Bowl's special committee can still be found on azcentral.com.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo