Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake ruled this morning there is enough evidence and uncontested allegations against Attorney General Tom Horne to merit a full-blown investigation into whether he has been using state resources and employees to campaign for reelection.
In formal findings, Drake said responses submitted by Horne back up claims by former staffer Sarah Beattie that workers at Horne’s office “were not volunteering but instead were being compensated by the State of Arizona while conducting campaign activities for Mr. Horne.” That includes the use of state computers to prepare campaign materials on state time.
Drake also said Horne submitted no evidence that his office followed state laws or other procedures “to prevent campaign activities from occurring during these work hours, which could have provided a viable and meaningful defense to these allegations.”
The report goes to state Solicitor General Robert Ellman who is actually part of Horne’s staff. But Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the office, said Ellman will send it to a county attorney who will be responsible for conducting a full probe to determine if Horne is guilty and determine an appropriate penalty.
Horne’s office said later this morning that he is dropping his own internal investigation of the allegations because there is no need for two investigations.
Horne said through Grisham that he believes he will be vindicated.
“These allegations are brought by a woman who has a history of making claims when she leaves employers. I have filed 11 witness statements indicating there is nothing to these allegations. I therefore look forward to this investigation being a complete vindication. The internal investigation will be terminated as there is no reason to have two investigations at the same time. I have instructed my staff to cooperate fully with any investigation taking place,” he said.
Drake said his office is involved because it enforces state campaign finance laws that limit how much candidates can take from any one source and police statutes that require reporting of all donations.
“Since the campaign activities are not volunteer hours (by staffers), they are no longer exempt from the contribution definition,” Drake wrote. He said that makes these “in-kind contributions” which Horne did not report.
And Drake said acceptance of public resources for campaigns violates other state laws.
Horne did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But he has repeatedly said the allegations by former staffer Sarah Beattie are without merit.
Drake’s inquiry, however, concludes otherwise.
For example, he noted that Beattie said she personally worked on the campaign during regular hours. But Drake said Horne provided no evidence to dispute that allegation but instead provided “general statements” from him and others they “were unaware of her campaign work on state time.”
Drake said, though, that contradicts statements by Horne and another staffer that they had discussed with Beattie her work on state time.
He also said Horne admitted to discussing an upcoming fundraiser with Beattie and others during work hours but said that discussion took less than five minutes.
“Additionally, he only addressed the discussion as ‘political water cooler talk’ and did not respond to the allegation that campaign assignments were tasked to the employees during this discussion and the expected deadline for staff to complete this task,” Drake wrote.
Drake said Horne “admits to discussions about campaign events” but said that was to avoid “scheduling conflicts.”
“But he did not address the specific allegation that campaign discussions beyond scheduling were being held on state property with his executive office staff,” Drake wrote. And Drake said Horne’s response directly conflicts other statements that “significant meetings” were held at an off-site location.
Drake also said that Horne aide Kathleen Winn admitted that she sent Beattie a document during work hours entitled “17 Major Achievements” about Horne.
Winn responded that while it was sent at 2:14 p.m. it was not for official work purposes but “for her to work on in her own time at home, not at work.” But Drake noted that the document was labeled “Top priority stat” and that Winn’s statement corroborates Beattie’s statement that she was being assigned campaign tasks during regular work hours.
The findings come at a politically inopportune time for Horne: Early voting starts later this month for the Aug. 26 Republican primary. Horne is facing a challenge from Mark Brnovich, a former state gaming director, who has openly attacked Horne’s ethics, not only because of these allegations but a separate finding by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk of improprieties in Horne’s original 2010 race.
The survivor of the primary will face off against Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the general election.