Tom Horne Suit Against Child-Porn Attack Ad Fails, Secretary of State Refers Matter To AG's Office
The anti-Horne ad causing all the hubbub, currently in heavy rotation
On Wednesday, a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge denied Republican state attorney general candidate Tom Horne's request for a restraining order against a controversial attack ad now running against him.
The ad, which is paid for by the DC-based "Committee for Justice and Fairness," calls into question Horne's vote as a legislator not to increase penalties against statutory rape, and it claims Horne voted to re-certify a teacher who had (according to the ad) watched kiddie porn on a classroom computer.
Horne alleged in his complaint that the Committee for Justice and Fairness, an independent "527" group, is not registered with the Arizona Secretary of State, and that it's fronting for another group, the Democratic Attorneys Generals Association, which is not disclosed in the ad.
Judge Linda Miles didn't rule on whether or not the ad broke state law. In her minute entry, she explains that state campaign finance statutes do not allow her to grant the injunctive relief sought by Horne.
However, the Secretary of State's office says there is probable cause to believe Horne's allegations that the CJF broke the law. SOS spokesman Matt Benson told me the SOS has forwarded the case to the Arizona Attorney General's Office.
When I asked her about it for a previous blog post, Horne's Democratic rival Felecia Rotellini insisted she knew nothing of the ad until she saw it on Television. But her campaign clearly took delight in Horne's courtroom loss, calling Horne's legal action an "anti-free speech suit" and claiming he was attempting to muzzle his critics.
"Horne sued in a desperate bid to silence the Committee for Justice and Fairness," states a press release on Rotellini's Web site,"which has brought to light decisions of Horne's that show his true character, including allowing a teacher who was fired for viewing pornography in school back into the classroom."
The latter part of that statement is apparently true, as the teacher in question, Joseph Richardson, admitted to viewing explicit images on a school computer. According to a 2006 article in the East Valley Tribune, Richardson resigned his position at Queen Creek High School in 2002 after his students turned him in for looking at porn on a class computer.
In 2006, the state Board of Education voted 6-5 to reinstate his teaching certificate. In the minutes of the BOE meeting, Horne -- who is the state school's superintendent -- defers to the recommendation of the professional practices committee, and votes to give Richardson his certification.
Viewing porn on a class computer seems bad enough, but did Richardson view kiddie porn as the CJF ad states?
When I first spoke to Horne about the ad, he told me that a police report of the incident showed that there was no kiddie porn on the computer. Horne repeated this statement in his suit, saying, "While untruth is not a basis for this legal action, I point out that this advertisement is a big lie."