Tom Horne Elections Law Case Referred to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk
Horne's fate is in Sheila Polk's hands, for the time being . . .
Allegations of campaign-finance violations involving Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and his outreach director, Kathleen Winn, are now in the hands of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk after being referred to Polk's office by state Solicitor General Robert Ellman.
Last week, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett sent a letter to Ellman's office, advising him that Bennett had found "reasonable cause" to believe that Horne and Winn coordinated during the 2010 general election.
At that time, Winn was running an independent expenditure committee that supported Horne's candidacy against Democrat Felecia Rotellini. Such coordination would be illegal under Arizona law and could trigger a civil penalty of three times the amount raised by Winn.
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As Ellman reports to Horne, and since Horne has an obvious conflict of interest, Ellman has referred the case to Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, appointing her a Special Arizona Attorney General and promising to pick up the tab for the legal expenses.
"In discharging your duties pursuant to this appointment," Ellman wrote her on June 27, "you shall in no way be subject to the direction of the attorney general or me."
Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham contended via e-mail that Horne, Winn, and their immediate staff had been "shut out from any discussion regarding the placement of this matter."
Ellman acted as Horne's "designee" during the process, she said. And the AG's staff members have been instructed not to discuss the case with Horne or Winn to avoid a further conflict or the "appearance of impropriety."
Polk's will be the second county attorney's office and the third prosecutor's office to look into the Horne-Winn affair.
An FBI probe into Horne's office, prompted by whistleblower Meg Hinchey, uncovered allegations of tampering with witnesses, obstruction of justice, violations of state campaign finance laws, and the now-notorious vehicular hit-and-run, which Horne recently pleaded no contest to, paying a fine of $300.
The U.S. Attorney's Office did not bring federal charges on the more serious allegations, and instead handed the ball to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, whose investigators had been brought into the case by the FBI.
Montgomery declined to file criminal charges and forwarded the case file to Bennett, who in turn sent it back to Monty with a probable-cause letter. Montgomery sent the case to an administrative law judge, who ultimately suggested that the case be dismissed, because Bennett should have sent the case to the AG's Office.