Who Will Chop Off the Head of Tom Horne's Zombie-Like Campaign?
Pool Photos/Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne (right) with his lawyer Michael Kimerer, at a February hearing into allegations that he and outreach director Kathleen Winn violated campaign finance laws in 2010.
In a sworn affidavit supported by more than 146 pages of exhibits and the "Border Patrol" binder, Beattie makes the devastating accusation that "the majority of people employed in the Executive Office of the Arizona Attorney General's Office were campaigning for Tom Horne during regular business hours."
Beattie's allegations now are in the hands of investigators with the FBI, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, and the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
Pool Photos/Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic Kathleen Winn, Tom Horne's outreach director Former Assistant Attorney General Carmen Chenal, Horne's presumed mistress, now works for Horne supporter Dennis Wilenchik's law firm but remains active in Horne's political life.
Campaigning on the state's dime is illegal, and yet Horne, amazingly, maintains that the contrary is true, in spite of the AG's own policies, in spite of Arizona law, in spite of a gathering consensus that Horne, is, politically speaking, the walking dead.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk now has revived a campaign-finance case against Horne, reinstating her previous order that he and Kathleen Winn, his office's outreach director, repay $400,000 in campaign contributions deemed improper because of illegal coordination between an independent-expenditure committee Winn once ran and Horne's 2010 campaign for AG.
The AG is appealing Polk's decision. If he loses, Horne's GOP primary rival, former state gaming director Mark Brnovich, stands to benefit directly. A recent poll by an organization friendly to his campaign shows him neck-and-neck with Horne among likely Republican primary voters, with more than a third undecided.
Should Brnovich prove incapable of successfully taking a metaphorical sword to Horne's undead head, there's Democratic rival Felecia Rotellini waiting for vengeance after losing to Horne in 2010 by 60,000 votes.
Rested and ready, she bides her time, raking in cash with which to obliterate what's left of Horne should he survive the primary. She is on track, some say, to have raised $1.5 million by the beginning of the general election.
All that's left in Horne's tragicomedy is a denouement, and the answer to the one remaining question: Who will finish him off?
Chuck Coughlin, the closest thing Arizona has to Karl Rove (or Lee Atwater, take your pick), is whistling past the zombie-yard.
"I don't think [Horne's] as damaged as what people assume he is," Coughlin says during an interview. "And given the electoral cycle, I still think he's got a shot at winning. I'd put it at even odds right now of him winning the primary, then beating [Rotellini]."
"Even odds" for an incumbent does not sound promising. True, Coughlin won't argue too much with the proposition that Horne is damaged goods.
"I'm just not in this camp of 'Oh, he should resign,'" he tuts. "I'm not there, having seen what I've seen in my life."
Coughlin can boast a certain expertise in Republican scandals, as he was once a top adviser to former Arizona Governor Fife Symington, who resigned in 1997 after a fraud conviction, which was overturned on appeal.
Symington later was pardoned by his pal President Bill Clinton, a Democrat whom the Republican Symington had saved from drowning in Hyannis, Massachusetts when they were young men ("Criminal With an Asterisk," May 15, 2003).
Symington, it should surprise no one, is a stalwart Horne supporter.
So what would it take for Coughlin to acknowledge Horne as a goner? How bad does it have to get?
An FBI raid on the AG's Office? A criminal indictment? A photo of Horne with a goat?
Not that much, actually.
Coughlin admits that if Horne's appeal of Polk's decision to the Superior Court fails, the AG probably is finished.
In this scenario, Horne and Winn still would be on the hook for $400,000.
"If that's what happens, my instincts will be that those prospects [for re-election] will go down substantially," Coughlin says. "At that point, you will have had, at least in the eyes of the public, a conclusive resolution to the matter."
Coughlin tries his best to make the case that state law and the process are unfair for Horne, that he's a victim of a vicious, lefty U.S. Department of Justice run by that bête noire of GOPers, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who sicced the FBI on Horne.
But this spin plays with only two groups these days: Horne's ever-dwindling cult of personality and the same wingnuts who once vilified Horne as a RiNO (Republican in Name Only) when he was running in the 2010 GOP primary for AG against now-disbarred ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas.