Horne campaign-finance case in hands of Yavapai official

2013-07-04T00:00:00Z Horne campaign-finance case in hands of Yavapai officialHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
July 04, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - The question of whether Attorney General Tom Horne and an aide will be prosecuted for campaign-finance violations is now up to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk.

As required by a May court ruling, Secretary of State Ken Bennett forwarded allegations against Horne and aide Kathleen Winn, which were the result of an FBI investigation, to the Attorney General's Office.

But Bennett did not send the files directly to Horne. Instead they went to Solicitor General Rob Ellman, an attorney in the office, along with a note from Bennett on how he expected the matter to be farmed out to some other agency.

Horne press aide Stephanie Grisham said Wednesday that Ellman did just that, deciding on his own with no input from Horne to send the issue to Polk.

"I take this responsibility seriously," Polk said in a prepared statement. "And it is my intention to address this matter expeditiously and ensure fair administration of the law."

But Polk said court rules prohibit her from addressing the specifics of the complaint.

At issue is $513,340 spent on a last-minute TV commercial for Horne's 2010 campaign by Business Leaders for Arizona. The group was run by Winn, who had worked on Horne's primary campaign but left to set up an independent committee for the general election.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who got the initial report from the FBI, said that agency turned up evidence of coordination between the committee and Horne, which would violate multiple campaign-finance laws.

Montgomery turned the FBI findings over to Bennett, as required by law. But instead of sending it to the attorney general for investigation, as the law requires, Bennett sent it back to Montgomery, citing Horne's conflict of interest.

But in May, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Rea ruled Montgomery was ineligible to do the investigation, and the case should have gone to Horne, conflict not withstanding.

In sending the case to Ellman, Bennett pointedly noted he expects Ellman and everyone else in the Attorney General's Office to adopt a hands-off approach.

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