Tom ‘banned for life by the SEC’ Horne, poster boy for political corruption

TomHorneIt was a travesty of justice that the voters of Arizona elected Tom “banned for life by the SEC” Horne attorney general in 2010, knowing that he was unfit for public office as demonstrated during his tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction. I blame Tea-Publicans who blindly voted out of tribalism for the “R” behind Horne’s name in a “wave” year.

Even so, Horne defeated his far more competent and ethical Democratic opponent Felecia Rotellini by only the narrowest of margins. Arizona Voters have a chance to redeem themselves and to correct this injustice in November by electing Felecia Rotellini our next attorney general.

Horne is supposed to be Arizona’s chief law enforcement officer, yet he has been the focus of lawsuits and FBI investigations into his political corruption since he assumed office. I love the line that his GOP opponent Mark “I’d like to buy a vowel” Brnovich is using against Horne on the campaign trail: “If you’ve ever listened to the song ‘Desolation Row‘ by Bob Dylan, every day ‘the circus is in town’ when Tom Horne is attorney general.”

Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times captured this quote in his piece on the latest complaint about to be filed against Tom “banned for life by the SEC” Horne for political corruption in his current campaign for reelection. Tom Horne’s Zombieland Amusement Park Dive-Bombed by the Irish Wolfhound:

[Brnovich] ain’t kiddin’.

From Horne’s hiring of his mistress, Carmen Chenal, at a six-figure salary as an assistant attorney general to his attempt to plug a leak about the affair with an internal investigation to AG investigator Meg Hinchey’s discovery of evidence of campaign-finance impropriety to Horne’s attempt to cover up that discovery to his retaliation against Hinchey for doing her duty and turning that info over to the FBI to Horne’s vehicular hit-and-run during a rendezvous with Chenal to allegations by two Republican prosecutors that he broke state laws, the AG’s black satire of a carnival never seems to end.

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Even as we wait for the decision of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, a fellow GOPer, on whether she will accept the decision of a state administrative law judge not to ding Horne and zombie lieutenant Kathleen Winn $400,000 or more for alleged illegal coordination during the 2010 general election, there are more allegations, seemingly every day, of Horne and his soulless minions using his state office for his re-election effort.

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Recent revelations of apparent political work done from the AG’s Office make this painfully clear. Horne’s “zombie McLovin,” legislative liaison Brett Mecum, was caught on videotape dropping off a political complaint to the Arizona Secretary State’s Office during a work day.

AG spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, playing zombie Ron Ziegler to Horne’s Dick Nixon (Google it, Millennials!) told Channel 12’s Brahm Resnik that Mecum had dropped off the doc during his lunch hour.

But that was after Mecum insisted, as we chatted on Facebook, “I filed no complaint.”

Leaving you to believe either Mecum or your lyin’ eyes.

Before the Mecum interview, the Arizona Capitol Times revealed that Sarah Beattie, one of the AG’s staffers and campaign volunteers, had fled the coop, stating in her resignation note that the AG’s Office was “not following campaign laws or finance laws” and that she feared for her “legal well-being.”

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Beattie since has secured the legal assistance of the Irish wolfhound of Arizona election law, Chandler attorney Tom Ryan, who helped sink former state Senate President Russell Pearce during Pearce’s 2011 recall.

These are new accusations of Beattie’s, backed up by documents she has provided Ryan, such as a flyer for a campaign fundraising event, which Ryan alleges was disseminated by one member of the AG’s executive staff to others and was created by a “Brett” during work hours.

Ryan tells Horne in a recent litigation hold letter that this is just “one of many examples I have learned of improper use of the Executive Office for campaigning for your 2014 re-election process.”

Plus, he advises Horne that more is on the way, per the request of a lawyer at the Secretary of State’s Office, in a letter Ryan is drafting as I type these words.

These new documents and allegations will involve Horne’s ordering at least one subordinate to delete e-mails, coercion of subordinates to work on his re-election campaign and raise money for him, and Horne himself raising money for re-election from the AG’s Office.

None of which is surprising. Scuttlebutt for years has it that Horne had his hacks labor on his campaigns while he was superintendent of public schools. And, to be honest, he’d hardly be the first Arizona pol to use his office in this manner.

What’s different is that there is evidence, a growing Camelback Mountain-size pile of it — some supplied by Horne’s own sloppiness.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) less colorfully reports, Former Horne staffer alleges rampant election law violations in AG’s Office:

A former Attorney General’s Office employee who did volunteer work for Tom Horne’s re-election said she and other employees routinely violated state laws by doing campaign work on taxpayer time, and that Horne himself encouraged and was aware of the unlawful activity.

Sarah Beattie, who resigned in April from her job in office’s constituent services division, said she and other employees were hired explicitly for campaign work. She estimated that she spent an average of two hours a day on her official duties and spent the rest of her work time on campaign issues, at Horne’s instruction.

Most of Horne’s executive office staff frequently did campaign work on the clock, Beattie said, including policy analyst Garrett Archer, Chief of Staff Margaret Dugan, legislative liaison Brett Mecum, community outreach director Kathleen Winn and Horne himself. Other employees volunteered their time for campaign work, but Beattie said she didn’t know whether everyone involved was breaking the law and that, “There are a lot of people who do watch their steps pretty closely.”

The accusations paint a portrait of a re-election campaign being run almost exclusively out of the Attorney General’s Office using taxpayer-funded employees. Horne has paid consultants and other outside vendors, including MBQF Consulting, which is run by Beattie’s boyfriend, but has no actual paid staff for his campaign, Beattie said.

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Beattie said she was Horne’s fundraising consultant, Dugan serves as his campaign manager and Mecum effectively for a long time effectively was in charge of the campaign, and has also been serving as Horne’s campaign spokesman. Archer is in charge of the campaign website and other data issues, she said, while Winn coordinates events and executive assistant Debra Scordato, who manages Horne’s official calendar, is in charge of scheduling.

Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, who previously served as Horne’s volunteer campaign spokeswoman as well, said it is difficult to respond to the allegations until Beattie actually puts them in writing.

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Beattie said all of Horne’s campaign volunteers have been instructed to use personal laptop computers and private email accounts for campaign work. At one point, around early February, a chain email among the team was accidentally sent to her Attorney General’s Office email account, she said, and Horne instructed her to delete it.

Beattie and her attorney, Tom Ryan, plan to file an official complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office and Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Ryan on May 5 submitted a “litigation hold demand” letter to Horne, which requested that the Attorney General’s Office preserve all pertinent records, including electronic metadata that would show when electronic records were created and who created them.

“You will see campaigning on state time,” Beattie said. “I think you will see staff being brought on solely for campaign purposes, myself included. I think you will see an example of how elected officials take advantage of privileges they were given. And I think you will hopefully see that Tom Horne should resign immediately.”

Ryan said the complaint will include numerous emails provided by Beattie that show her and other top Horne staffers doing election work on state time.

“In my estimation, it probably runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars of misappropriated time,” Ryan said. “If Mr. Horne actually had to pay for a campaign staff, he wouldn’t have any money in his account right now. We are, the citizens of the state of Arizona, currently paying for Tom Horne’s re-election campaign.”

Ryan did not provide those emails to the Capitol Times.In his litigation hold demand, Ryan included a copy of a campaign fundraiser flyer that he said is shown through metadata to have been created by Mecum and emailed from executive assistant Debra Scordato’s private email during work hours.

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Beattie said she was aware at first that her on-the-clock campaign activities were illegal, but didn’t realize the scope of what she and other staffers were doing until she was moved over the executive office staff.

“I guess the short answer would be yes,” Beattie said, when asked if she was aware that her activities were against the law. “But it did become more clear to me the severity of what we were doing once I moved upstairs and the potential legal ramifications of what we were doing.”

Beattie said she started to raise concerns about the illegality of her and other staffers’ campaign work as time went on. Most other staffers who volunteered on the campaign shared those worries – though not enough to stop doing campaign work – but Horne was unconcerned, she said.

In mid-April, Beattie said she finally decided to tell Horne that she would no longer do campaign work for him because of her concerns.

“I said, ‘If you don’t think we’re still being watched, you’re very foolish.’ And I said, ‘I’m going to look out for myself here and I’m not helping on your campaign anymore,’” Beattie said.

On April 22, Beattie resigned via email. In her email, she said she was leaving because of the office “not following campaign laws or finance laws and/or regulations and putting my legal well being at risk.” Her last day was three days later.

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Beattie said she decided to speak out and submit a complaint partly out of fear, partly due to a guilty conscience and partly out of a feeling that she had an obligation to do so.

The next shoes to drop will be the decision by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, and an official complaint filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and Citizens Clean Elections Commission by Tom Ryan. Tom “banned for life by the SEC” Horne’s political corruption is going to dog him until election day. The voters of Arizona have it in their power to end his circus of corruption.

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