Ex-campaign staffer alleges Horne violated campaign finance laws - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Ex-campaign staffer alleges Horne violated campaign finance laws

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Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014 3:45 pm

An attorney for a former staffer at the Attorney General's Office filed a formal complaint Monday alleging that Tom Horne and top staffers repeatedly violated campaign finance laws.

In an affidavit given to the Secretary of State's Office, Sarah Beattie said she was told beginning last year to work on getting Horne reelected. Attorney Tom Ryan acknowledged his client did such work initially — and in fact worked the majority of her time on Horne's campaign matters — but subsequently quit.

Beattie, hired last year, also attached 146 pages of supporting materials, including campaign documents on which Beattie said she worked and emails from Horne and others. Beattie also said she witnessed others in Horne's executive team — all state employees — who worked on campaign materials, often for hours at a time.

An identical complaint by Beattie, who was in the constituent services office, was filed with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission which also enforces campaign finance laws.

Horne would not consent to an interview. But, in a prepared response, he said some staffers do campaign work “on their own time, as is their First Amendment right.” And he said all “significant campaign work,” including meetings, were one off-site, at lunch or after work.

He accused Beattie of being bitter about having to work eight hours a day on legitimate state business, and he called the charges “desperation, opportunism and political games.”

Ryan, however, said since Beattie first quit and made verbal allegations she has been the subject of a smear campaign by Horne and allies.

“It's been vile, it's been filthy,” Ryan said.

The complaint comes just as Horne was hoping to put legal issues involving his 2010 race behind him.

An administrative law judge concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a charge that he had illegally coordinated that campaign with what was supposed to be an independent committee headed by Kathleen Winn. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, who inherited that probe, must decide this week whether to accept those findings or ignore them and demand that Horne cough up more than $400,000 in campaign donations.

Now Horne could face a new round of hearings if Secretary of State Ken Bennett finds evidence of new violations, some of which involve Winn who now works in Horne's office. Ryan said there is plenty of documentation to support the allegations.

“The plain fact of the matter is, Tom Horne and the executive office is doing a substantial amount of campaigning on taxpayer money,” Ryan said. That includes not only use of paid staffers but also soliciting donations out of the office.

“The constitution mandates purity of elections and our top police officer in the state of Arizona is violating that daily,” he said.

Ryan produced several exhibits he said prove the point.

One was a document produced by Brett Mecum, Horne's lobbyist at the Legislature, promoting a Sept. 18 fundraiser for Horne. A copy went to Beattie.

The “metadata” attached to the file — essentially electronic tags attached to word-processing programs — shows that it was worked on over more than 20 hours including what would otherwise be normal office hours. There is no indication of what computer was used to create the flyer.

Ryan acknowledged that senior staffers have no set hours and can take time off during the day to do non-state business, but he said the sheer amount of time spent on this paints a different picture.

“That's not coffee breaks, that's not lunch hours,” Ryan said. “That's somebody abusing the privilege of executive office to run for reelection.”

Beattie produced another email from Horne at 4:26 p.m. on Dec. 26 with a script of a “robocall” to push for his reelection and undermine attacks from “a liberal group.” And there's a response back from Horne staffer Carmen Chenal at 11:16 a.m. the following day saying the script “looks good.”

Horne also sent an email this past January, during normal business hours, where he had crafted a memo about “negatives on (Felecia) Rotellini,” the Democrat who he narrowly defeated in 2010 and who is the presumptive Democrat nominee this year. The memo went to various staffers at the Attorney General's Office.

Beattie, in her affidavit, also said she witnessed Horne actually trying to raise money from his state office, albeit on his personal cell phone, using a list of donors he kept in his office in a notebook labeled “Border Patrol.”

She also produced copies of calendars produced by Debra Scordato, Horne's executive assistant, sent out on Scordato's personal email account, which listed campaign and fundraising events. Beattie stated Horne would bring senior staffers into meetings where they would discuss campaign matters.

Beattie's allegations that staffers did work on the taxpayer dime got a separate boost when Horne press aide Stephanie Grisham admitted Monday that Winn, still on Horne's staff, had used a state vehicle to attend a campaign event.

Grisham said Winn drove it from an official meeting to “an off-site campaign meeting.” She said Winn was formally reprimanded by her supervisor that same day and asked to pay $10 to cover the mileage put on the vehicle.

If Bennett finds evidence of a campaign law violation he is required by state statutes to forward it to the Attorney General's Office, but Ryan said he expects that to bypass Horne and his staff and instead go to Solicitor General Robert Ellman who, in turn, would likely farm it out to a county attorney, just like what happened in the earlier case that wound up in Polk's hands.

The Clean Elections Commission, by contrast, gets to decide violations on its own.

In either event, Ryan said the penalties are all civil and involve reimbursement of improperly spent state resources and possible fines equal to three times the misspent amounts.

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