Latest allegation of hit-run signals again that attorney general must go
Posted: Nov.11th, 2012
As Arizona’s top law enforcement official, Tom Horne has an obligation to the people of Arizona to act ethically, professionally and with honor. Horne has failed in every regard.
Horne’s pattern of questionable conduct stretches back decades. He has embarrassed Arizona and used the power of his elected offices for his personal and political gain.
Horne should step down as Arizona attorney general.
Horne, a Republican, signed his name to Arizona Corporation Commission forms from 1997 to 2000 after checking “no” to the question of whether he had ever been a partner in a business that filed bankruptcy.
That was false. In 1970 Horne’s investment firm – T.C. Horne & Co. – went bankrupt. He eventually agreed to a Securities and Exchange Commission finding that stated he and his firm “willfully aided and abetted” in violations of securities laws.
The SEC stipulation he agreed to allowed him to not admit guilt, but he is banned for life from associating himself with brokers, investment companies, dealers and investment advisers.
Horne brushed it all away during the 2010 election, saying he was in Harvard Law School at the time and got in over his head, and that the bankruptcy was so long ago he’d forgotten about it.
What has transpired since 2010, in his quest for the Attorney General’s Office and while he’s held it, continues the pattern.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a Republican, announced that an investigation revealed Horne illegally collaborated with an outside political expenditure group during his 2010 campaign for attorney general. Candidates and their campaigns are barred by law from coordinating with outside groups.
Montgomery made the announcement last month following a 14-month investigation into Horne and Business Leaders for Arizona, a group led by Kathleen Winn that collected and spent more than $500,000 in a last-minute barrage of TV ads in Horne’s tight race against Democrat Felecia Rotellini. Horne and Winn could face civil penalties of up to $1.5 million.
Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, also a Republican, stated in a September letter to Montgomery that his review of information, including emails between Horne and Winn, led him to conclude that there is reasonable cause to believe that the pair violated campaign-finance laws.
Horne said he did nothing wrong, that he did not collaborate with Winn’s political group and that they’d been discussing a real-estate deal. In the emails, Winn compliments Horne’s looks, and refers to him as “governor” and a “rock star.”
As attorney general, Horne hired Winn, whose background is in real estate and finance, as his community outreach director.
Montgomery’s investigation revealed that, according to FBI agents who were tailing Horne as they looked into the campaign-expenditure situation, Horne and another employee, Carmen Chenal, were observed in a car (borrowed from another AG employee) in a parking garage across from Chenal’s home. Horne was driving and, according to FBI reports, hit a Range Rover and caused damage. Horne stopped the car briefly but drove away.
Horne has given conflicting reports of what happened to media outlets.
Last week Horne pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident with an unattended vehicle. The charge carries a maximum of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Horne’s office also redacted from public documents embarrassing details, such as pervasive rumors that he and Chenal were having an affair. The same documents were released by Montgomery’s office in their entirety. State law does not allow officials to censor records because they’re potentially embarrassing or unflattering to an elected official.
The genesis of the campaign-finance investigation is just as troubling. Newspapers in Phoenix reported that in 2010 Horne assigned veteran investigator Margaret “Meg” Hinchey to find out if someone in the Attorney General’s Office gave the media details about Horne’s hiring of Chenal, who had also worked for him at the Department of Education. Chenal, an attorney who has had problems with the state bar and whose law license was reinstated with Horne’s help, is paid $108,000 to work in the AG’s criminal division.
As Hinchey investigated the possible “leak,” she unearthed information about Horne’s possible campaign-finance wrongdoing and, as it was an obvious conflict of interest for the Attorney General’s Office to investigate, turned to the FBI. She was correct to do so.
As a consequence, according to a $10 million defamation, civil rights and retaliation legal claim Hinchey filed against Horne and others in June, Horne and his allies worked to discredit her and destroy her career.
Keep in mind that Hinchey was assigned to conduct the “leak” investigation – hardly an assignment given to someone Horne did not support.
Horne’s reputation for acting against employees he believed were disloyal or belonged to the “wrong” political party – Democrats – was well-known within the office, according to Hinchey. The partisan atmosphere in the Attorney General’s Office was so strong she felt compelled to change her voter registration from Democrat to independent.
The media reports that had raised Horne’s ire focused on his personal association with and the hiring of Chenal. Not flattering, but nothing that compromised an AG investigation or gave away privileged information. Horne abused the power of his office for personal and political protection.
Tucsonans are familiar with Horne’s mode of operation. As superintendent of schools, he targeted the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies classes. They offended his sensibility that world history should be taught from the traditional Greco-Roman point of view. He made it clear that he thought the students had treated his staff rudely. He effectively demonized the program and its students, and in the end the Legislature passed a law that specifically targets TUSD. Horne was elected attorney general. Students were collateral damage.
Our state requires an attorney general with personal and professional integrity.
Horne does not deserve the confidence of Arizonans. He should step down.
Arizona Daily Star