The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has hired two lawyers who have contributed money or campaign work to Attorney General Tom Horne to investigate claims he and his staff are using taxpayer time and resources to run his re-election campaign.
One of them, John Kaites, a lobbyist and former legislator, was on the host committee of an April 23, 2013, fundraiser for the attorney general. The second, David Derickson a criminal defense attorney, contributed $300 to Horne’s campaign in 2011. In all, eight attorneys for the lawyers’ firm, Ridenour Hienton & Lewis, have contributed $6,352 to elect Horne.
The two attorneys are going to determine whether former staffer Sarah Beattie’s claims that Horne and his staff violated state law and Attorney General policies prohibiting the use of government resources for campaigns.
Beattie’s attorney Tom Ryan said he received a letter from Kaites informing him of the investigation and will politely tell the attorneys to “pound sand.”
“Kaites is a well-known, hard right conservative Republican and the idea that this is going to be a quote – independent investigation – closed quote, in my mind is highly suspect,” Ryan said.
Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said she wasn’t aware of the political background of Derickson and Kaites, but she asserted the investigation will be independent.
She said that the attorneys won’t abandon their ethics or professional standards just because they contributed to Horne’s campaign over the years.
“They are very qualified for this subject matter, which is what makes them a good fit,” Grisham said.
She said the investigation is administrative, meaning that any employee misconduct would be addressed by the office’s employment law attorneys and human resources.
Horne’s chief deputy, Eric Bistrow, informed Kaites and Derickson they were chosen to conduct the investigation on June 18.
A letter to the attorneys says they are to determine if Horne, Chief of Staff Margaret Dugan, and staffers Kathleen Winn, Debra Scordato, Brett Mecum, Garrett Archer, and Beattie broke the law.
The attorneys will have access to the employees and an assortment of records, and “any other matter that bears on the veracity of Ms. Beattie’s allegations.”
The investigation will include a written report.
Bistrow told the attorneys in the letter they will be “completely independent, impartial and fair.” The office is allowing them to spend $50,000 in fees without further authorization.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission voted June 19 to conduct its own investigation of Beattie’s claims. The commission could fine Horne or kick him off the ballot if it finds he committed any violations.