FBI investigates AG Horne for campaign finance violation accusations - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

FBI investigates AG Horne for campaign finance violation accusations

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Posted: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 4:13 pm | Updated: 10:14 am, Mon Apr 9, 2012.

The FBI is investigating Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne for allegations of colluding with an independent expenditure committee that spent more than $500,000 on ads attacking his Democratic opponent during the 2010 election campaign, according to a complaint.

Don Dybus, who volunteered during Horne’s campaign for attorney general and serves as one of his prosecutors in the AG’s Tucson office, filed the complaint with Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office in February. Dybus said in the complaint that the funds were facilitated by Kathleen Winn, then chairwoman for the Business Leaders for Arizona, and that Horne promised Winn a job.

Winn now works as Horne’s director of community outreach. Dybus contends that the Business Leaders of Arizona received $115,000 from Horne’s brother-in-law in California to help pay for the ads attacking Horne’s opponent, Felecia Rotellini.

A spokesman in Bennett’s office would not say when the complaint was forwarded to the FBI, but said on Tuesday the office did so quickly after receiving it and reviewing it.

“We felt it was appropriate to send it to at least one law enforcement agency,” said Matthew Roberts, a spokesman for Bennett’s office. “We receive complaints quite often during election cycles, and this one appears to be dealing with allegations from the last election cycle.”

Roberts said the office would not comment on whether the FBI was the only law enforcement agency that the complaint was forwarded to, but said that any time there’s a campaign finance violation, it’s subject to some kind of enforcement.

State law prohibits coordination between candidates and independent expenditure committees that support them. Under state law, if someone is found in violation of illegally receiving campaign contributions, the fine can be three times as much as the amount illegally received, plus the amount that was illegally received or coordinated.

“The investigating authority is looking into it and if they find something, I’m sure they’ll let us know,” Roberts said.

In the complaint, Dybus invoked his whistleblower protection rights, something Horne said Dybus was only doing to protect his job as he had already planned to terminate him.

In a statement issued by Horne, he also denied any wrongdoing, said he never promised a job to Winn and has not been contacted by the FBI.

“When Don Dybus sent his letter, he knew he was about to be fired,” Horne said. “He sent the letter to the Attorney General’s Office indicating that he could not be fired.

According to Horne’s statement, Sharon Collins, manager of the Tucson office, asked Dybus why he sent a letter of charges, as referred to in his letter; Collins said Dybus responded: “I knew that Rick Bistrow (the Chief Deputy in the Attorney General’s office) was about to fire me, and I was afraid of losing the health insurance.”

“Of my own personal knowledge I am absolutely certain that there was no such coordination, and if there is any investigation, and it is fair, it should reach the same conclusion,” Horne added. “The fact is that extraordinary care was exercised to avoid coordination.”

On Tuesday, Dybus told the Tribune that Horne’s response was “laughable” and that he had already heard numerous times throughout the year that he was going to get fired. He also said that he had too much information to sit on and said he had a reasonable belief that Horne was involved in wrongdoing.

“I have no qualms about doing this. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, said Dybus, who said he was contacted by a law enforcement agency about the investigation but would not say which one.

On Horne’s response that Dybus was trying to protect his job by becoming a whistleblower, “I’ve heard that 12 times in the last 12 months,” Dybus said. “I got tired of hearing it, frankly. When you’re going to fire somebody, you fire them. You don’t talk about it; you do it. I was a vice president of Clear Channel. I know when people are going to get fired. You don’t beat around the bush about it. With these knuckleheads, management by fear has worked on a lot of people. My attitude was that they could kiss my ass. I was one of Tom Horne’s strongest supporters, one of his biggest confidants.”

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