PHOENIX — Attorney General Tom Horne said Monday he will not be distracted by the findings by the Yavapai County Attorney that he knowingly violated state campaign finance laws.
In his first extensive comments about the report, Horne said he has no intention of paying back $400,000 that Sheila Polk said was illegally funneled into his 2010 race by what was supposed to be an independent campaign committee. He called the allegations “technical” and insisted he will be vindicated.
Horne said he will be able to keep his focus on the job he was elected to do. He pointed out this has now been an issue for more than a year, since Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery first said there was evidence that Horne had broken the law.
“In fact, I have personally argued in Arizona superior court, Arizona Supreme Court, in federal district court, 9th Circuit, and personally argued two cases in the United States Supreme Court during this period,” he said. “And it's definitely not been a distraction.”
All that, however, was before Polk last week released a detailed and often scathing 26-page report laying out what she said was a pattern of phone calls and e-mails involving Horne and Kathleen Winn. She had been on Horne's primary election campaign committee, but formed a separate group, Business Leaders for Arizona, to help with his general election campaign against Democrat Felecia Rotellini.
That group eventually spent more than $500,000 in a last-minute TV commercial designed to help Horne.
Polk said there is “convincing proof that Horne and Winn coordinated on the development of the political message to be conveyed by the Business Leaders for Arizona anti-Rotellini advertisement.”
The Yavapai County Attorney also said that Horne, in giving information from his campaign to Winn, “intentionally and blatantly” violated the law.
“This is just an allegation,” Horne said Monday. And he said that, by rejecting Polk's demand to return money spent in excess of campaign finance limits, he will force a court hearing.
“We will shortly be coming out with information showing that the allegations are definitively proven to be false by documentary records,” he said.
There is technically no law that makes it illegal for a candidate to coordinate with a supposedly independent campaign.
What makes what Horne is accused of doing illegal are separate statutes that limit how much a candidate can take from any one source. For the 2010 election, that was $840 for candidates for statewide office.
Polk said the individual contributions to Winn's group were far larger than that. And that, in and of itself, is legal.
But if there was coordination between her group and Horne, that effectively made the contributions to her group contributions to Horne, and that would mean he took more than permitted from any individual.
Polk also said there were corporate donations to Business Leaders for Arizona. That is legal for an independent committee.
Candidates, however, cannot take corporate dollars for their campaigns. And if Winn's committee were simply an arm of Horne's campaign, that means those corporate dollars flowed directly to him.
Polk, in her report, said the ties she found, including Horne forwarding polling information and advice to Winn, convince he this was no accident.
“The breach is so clear that Horne must have recognized it to be improper,” she wrote.
Rotellini already has announced she intends to make another run at the office in 2014.
But she may not get to face off against Horne. He faces Republican Mark Brnovich in the Republican Party primary.