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Clean Elections director recommends action against Horne

 

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne listens to opening arguments from Yavapai Deputy County Attorney Benjamin Kreutzberg, in a hearing into allegations that Horne and political ally Kathleen Winn, violated campaign finance laws. (Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic)

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic)

The executive director of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission recommended that the commission officially rule that Attorney General Tom Horne violated campaign finance laws by failing to report staffer time and office space he used for his re-election as contributions to his campaign.

If the commission follows director Tom Collins’ recommendation at its Sept. 11 meeting, Horne could face up to $1 million in fines.

Based on the prorated salaries of six employees, Collins determined that Horne should have reported about $310,000 worth of in-kind contributions. Each of the contributions would exceed the state’s campaign contribution limits, which allow individuals to give a candidate up to $2,000 for the primary and another $2,000 for the general election.

Collins also said Horne should have reported about $25,000 in prorated rent for the use of Attorney General’s Office facilities for campaign meetings. While Horne noted that the Arizona Rock Products Association allowed him to use its building for campaign meetings, Collins noted that the only expense that Horne reported for campaign office space was a $100 payment to the association in April 2013.

“Evidence shows that Mr. Horne and his employees freely used the executive office suite as the base of operations for these campaign activities during regular work hours,” Collins wrote.

Horne could face a fine of up to three times the amount of the violations.
Collins’ findings stem from a complaint filed by former staffer Sarah Beattie, who alleged that Horne used the Attorney General’s Office as a de facto campaign headquarters, with her and other staffers doing campaign activities during the work day. Beattie claimed that she was hired specifically to be Horne’s campaign fundraising consultant.

Horne has denied the allegations. He argued that his staffers are free to volunteer on his campaign if they want, and that they did not engage in campaign work on taxpayer time.

But Collins found Horne’s arguments unconvincing, and determined that the staffers were compensated for their campaign work through their official salaries at the Attorney General’s Office. Collins said the employees’ positions at the Attorney General’s Office were tied to their work on Horne’s campaign.

“When a state employee’s position with the state is expressly tied to campaign work that is done interchangeably during work and after work hours, there is no distinction to be drawn. Just because AGO staff may have been free to volunteer after hours, doesn’t meant heir campaign work during and after hours wasn’t part of their compensated employment,” Collins wrote.

Horne’s executive office staff and his campaign volunteers had a “parallel organizational structure” in which the staffers’ campaign duties largely corresponded with their official duties in his office, Collins wrote. With the exception of one out-of-state consultant, Collins wrote, all attendees of Horne’s campaign meetings were employees of his office.

“There were seamless operations between the AGO Executive Office and the Horne campaign at the highest levels, including management, strategy, technology, communications, field work, and fundraising,” Collins wrote.

For example, though some employees alleged that they only engaged in campaign activities during breaks in the work day, there were no controls in place to document the timing or duration of those breaks, Collins said.

Collins cited allegations by Beattie that Margaret Dugan, who served as his chief of staff in the office and campaign manager for his re-election, would review campaign data in the office and talk with her about campaign issues, and that Horne would frequently pull staffers into meetings to discuss his campaign.

The executive director noted that two of the employees named in Beattie’s complaint, Garrett Archer and Brett Mecum, are political professionals by trade and that they allegedly volunteered services that they normally would have charged for.

Collins also said Horne and Attorney General’s Office did not respond to all of the commission’s questions in the investigation, including a failure to provide time sheets for some of the employees named in the complaint.

Based on the prorated salaries of six employees, Collins determined that Horne should have reported about $310,000 worth of in-kind contributions. Each of the contributions would exceed the state’s campaign contribution limits, which allow individuals to give a candidate up to $2,000 for the primary and another $2,000 for the general election.

Collins also said Horne should have reported about $25,000 in prorated rent for the use of Attorney General’s Office facilities for campaign meetings. While Horne noted that the Arizona Rock Products Association allowed him to use its building for campaign meetings, Collins noted that the only expense that Horne reported for campaign office space was a $100 payment to the association in April 2013.

“Evidence shows that Mr. Horne and his employees freely used the Executive Office suite as the base of operations for these campaign activities during regular work hours,” Collins wrote.

Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Horne, said the commission never interviewed any of the Attorney General’s Office employees who were named in Beattie’s complaint and ignored statements from 11 witnesses who refuted a lone person’s accusations.

“It is crazy to me that Mr. Collins and the CCEC can make these findings without interviewing one person mentioned in the complaint. I and the others who have first- hand knowledge of the ‘alleged facts’ would relish the opportunity to show in detail how baseless the charges in this proposed finding are,” Grisham said in an emailed statement. “Making a judgment without talking to any witnesses is irresponsible.”

Grisham said the employees named by Beattie have repeatedly stated that they put in 40 hours of work a week at the Attorney General’s Office and volunteered on their own time. The people who worked closely with Horne wanted to volunteer because they were committed to his re-election, she said.

In addition to the fines, the commission can also remove a candidate from the ballot for campaign violations, though Horne already lost the Republican primary to challenger Mark Brnovich and will not be on the November ballot.

Horne filed a lawsuit challenging the commission’s authority to investigate or penalize him for alleged campaign finance violations because he ran a traditionally funded campaign and did not take funding from Clean Elections. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled against him in August.

 

One comment

  1. What a bunch of bull

    What a witch hunt this is,brewer promoted her book scorpions for breakfast on tax payer time and The oflamer admin has been campaigning for seven years between golf games and vacations.dirty harry and Piglosi do it regularly but they DEMORATS SO ITS OK?this is nothing but a witch hunt,I’d be willing to bet money Brno and Rotellini are behind this.they need to leave him alone he did his job better than anybody in the AG’s office has in Years.

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