On Monday, the findings from an investigation into allegations against former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne were released. Former Gilbert Town Attorney Michael Hamblin issued the finding that Horne had violated campaign finance laws by using his staff for campaign activities.
Hamblin did not recommend criminal charges. Hamblin deemed “as sufficient” the $10,000 Horne had previously paid to the Clean Elections Commission.
Despite the fact that Hamblin found most of the allegations to be de minimus, Horne may appeal the finding.
Horne lost his re-election bid due in part to the allegations made against him by a low-level staff member in the Attorney General’s Office, Sarah Beattie. Horne lost to current Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in the 2014 Republican Primary.
Hamblin’s finding comes almost two years to the date that now-Supreme Court Justice John Lopez advised the Attorney General’s Office that the investigation was nearly complete.
In an email dated October 7, 2015, then-Inspector General John Lopez advised Michael Baily, Brnovich’s right-hand-man, that Hamblin “had almost completed his investigation.”
As Lopez noted in his email, Hamblin, who was at that time the City Attorney for Gilbert, Arizona was made a Special Attorney General, due to the fact that the Attorney General’s office had a conflict of interest which prevented their handling of the Horne matter. Hamblin was forced out of his Gilbert position in May 2017.
The number and type of incidents where state employees, while on state time and or using state resources acted to further the interests of the Tom Horne 2014 campaign are sufficiently numerous and varied so as to lead one to conclude that the practice was not simply sporadic, periodic, random or de minimus, “water cooler talk” or “passing in the hallway” exchanges, but was instead, when viewed in total, over the course of nine months, substantial and significant. However it cannot be determined, with any degree of specificity, how much time was spent engaging in campaign related activities on state time or the value of state resources used to further The Tom Horne 2014 campaign. While it is clear the time, effort of state employees, and the state resources used did have some value, specifically reporting that value for the purposes of filing accurate campaign-finance reports, given that no timesheets were kept, is not possible.
Normally, the Tom Horne 2014 campaign would be ordered to amend its final 2014 report to reflect a value, and ordered to refund the amount of in-kind contributions in excess of the appropriate limits to the contributing person or organization. In this matter, because the value is indeterminable, only the nature of the contribution is ordered to be reported.
To conciliate his case arising from these facts before the state of Arizona Clean Elections Commission, Mr. Horne agreed to pay $10,000. Given that determining the value of the undisclosed contribution is not possible, the amount paid to settle the matter is deemed sufficient.
Former attorney general staff member, Brett Mecum, is taking exception to the finding by Hamblin that his employment with Horne was primarily political. Hamblin found that Mecum, “who was hired as a legislative assistant by the attorney general’s office had not worked in government before and his employment history consisted of political campaign and political consulting related work.”
“I have worked for the New York Governor’s Office, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, a New York State Senator’s Office, and for a member of United States Congress. To imply that I was somehow unqualified for the Legislative Liaison position is offensive and not true. Either the investigators intended to make me look bad or they are just plain terrible investigators,” said Mecum.
Former attorney general staff member, Kathleen Winn, questions timing of the ruling given that Lopez had said the investigation was done in October 2015. “The date reflects that politics against the former AG (Horne) is the main motive. The fact that this has hung out there until after the Supreme Court’s decision is problematic,” stated Horne. [Related article: Arizona Supreme Court Rules In Winn, Horne Campaign Finance Case]
Horne issued the following statement on Monday:
Overall we are pleased that after three years and intensive scrutiny and investigation, page 18 of the report states that the $10,000 previously paid by Tom Horne “is deemed sufficient” and there is no reason to impose additional fines.
Page 16 of the report states that “the use of any state supplies, and computers appears to have been “minimal.” Though not stated explicitly in the report, emails and phone calls referenced in the report were made from individually owned laptops or cell phones, not state equipment.
As to emails, the report states at page 13: “Mr. Horne contends that when a campaign related email was sent during normal business hours, it would have been sent during an employee’s break…. Mr. Horne states that most email sent during work hours were short, thus quickly read. This last point is in large measure true. The longer emails tend to be sent after hours,…..”
With respect to rent at Rock Products please see attached statement of its executive director.
Statement of Steve Trussell executive director of Arizona Rock Products:
I have learned that Tom Horne has recently been criticized for the amount he paid us for use of a room in our office during the 2014 campaign. Our policy has always been that we do not charge for the use of our available space, as-long-as we are consistent and do not charge some people and not others. In the case of Tom Horne, there was no cost to us, because he was simply using a small space when it was not otherwise scheduled or occupied. That made the market value of what he was using essentially zero. The only reason we charged $100 was because Mr. Horne insisted on paying us. The money he paid to use the space was more than anyone else prior.
With respect to employees, Brett Mecum was an ideal legislative liaison for the department, because as former Republican Part (sic) Executive Director, he had campaigned for a number of legislators, and had recruited some to run. Mr. Archer was an ideal federal liaison, as he worked in a congressman’s office; Ms. Betty was hired at the lowest possible level.
While we are pleased that there are no additional fines, for reputation purposes, Mr. Horne’s attorney, Dennis Wilenchik, is considering options of appeal to an administrative law judge.