Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit July 3 to stop the Clean Elections Commission from suing him, alleging its actions are a “stunning power grab.”
The commission voted June 19 to look into former Horne staffer Sarah Beattie’s claims that Horne and his staff violated a state law prohibiting the use of government resources for political campaigns. The commission’s executive director, Tom Collins, has said that if the allegations are true, those resources would constitute in-kind contributions to his campaign and could lead to his removal from office.
Horne’s attorney, Tim LaSota, alleges the commission has no authority to investigate candidates who aren’t participating in the public campaign funding program.
LaSota contends only the Secretary of State has the authority to investigate whether a privately funded candidate has broken campaign finance laws.
LaSota said the Legislature and governor shared his view by passing and signing SB1344, a 2014 bill that prohibits the commission from accepting, investigating or otherwise acting on any alleged violation of campaign contribution limits.
“I don’t agree,” Collins said. “I don’t think the arguments Mr. Horne and his attorney are making here are consistent with the law.”
LaSota could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Secretary of State is also investigating Beattie’s complaint, and Horne’s chief deputy, Rick Bistrow, last week hired two lawyers who have contributed money or campaign work to Horne to also investigate Beattie’s claims.
That investigation will result in a report that will not be made public, but could lead to employee discipline.