Investigation finds ex-AG Tom Horne violated campaign laws
PHOENIX (AP) — A three-year investigation of former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne found he illegally used his office staff to work on his failed 2014 re-election effort but that no criminal charges are warranted and he won’t have to pay back additional money.
The investigation by former Gilbert Town Attorney Michael Hamblin and retired Court of Appeals Judge Daniel A. Barker that followed a complaint to the secretary of state’s office was released Monday. They were appointed as special attorneys general.
Their decision orders Horne to refile his 2014 campaign finance reports to show the value of the work done by his office staff and the market value of rent on a campaign office.
But the order said a $10,000 fine Horne paid to the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission in late 2014 to settle the same allegations was sufficient.
The allegations against Horne helped torpedo his re-election. He lost in the Republican primary to current Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Brnovich played no role in the investigation.
Monday’s decision essentially ends a series of legal troubles that have dogged Horne for years, although Horne said his attorney may consider an appeal to an administrative law judge “for reputation purposes.” The new campaign finance filings, when they come, will also be reviewed by Clean Elections to ensure they meet the terms of the earlier settlement.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office previously concluded that no criminal charges should be brought for the use of office staff for his campaign because there wasn’t a reasonable likelihood of convicting Horne on felony charges and the statute of limitations on misdemeanor charges had passed.
Separately, Horne spent years battling allegations that he illegally coordinated campaign matters with former aide Kathleen Winn when she ran an outside group supporting his 2010 election. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk determined he violated campaign finance laws, ordering him to repay $400,000 and face up to $1.2 million in fines. But the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in May that Polk wasn’t a neutral arbiter, and the Cochise County Attorney cleared Horne in July.
In Monday’s lengthy decision, Hamblin found that several of Horne’s staff at the attorney general’s office engaged in campaign work while on state time, and he ordered him to re-file his campaign finance documents to account for their time. Hamblin also found that a $100 payment for use of a private office was below market value and needed to be accounted for.
But Hamblin noted that it would be difficult to fully account for the use of state staff and bypassed any additional fines, saying the $10,000 payment Horne made in 2014 was “deemed sufficient.”
Horne has consistently said he didn’t violate any campaign finance laws and that any campaign work that was done by state staff was minimal and didn’t violate the law.
In a statement, he said he was “pleased that after three years intensive scrutiny and investigation, page 18 of the report states that the $10,000 previously paid by Tom Horne ‘is deemed sufficient,’ and that there is no reason to impose additional fines.”
He didn’t address the conclusions that he used his staff to do campaign work on state time. But Horne noted “the use of any state supplies, and computers appears to have been minimal.” He also said employees he hired who doubled as campaign staff were capable state employees.
One of those staffers, Sarah Beattie, filed the complaint that alleged top executive staff in Horne’s office did fundraising, campaign planning meetings and other campaign activities while on state time.