Tom Horne Probes Self with Help of Chief Deputy Rick Bistrow
So what do you do when you have the FBI breathing down your neck (again), you've been ordered to give back $400,000 in illegal campaign contributions (again), and allegations of your using the Arizona Attorney General's Office as your re-election headquarters have been so well documented that both conservative U.S. Senator Jeff Flake and über-conservative U.S. Representative Matt Salmon (Republicans, like yourself) have asked for you to ditch your re-election effort?
If you're Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, you pretend all is well, file your signatures to get on the ballot, ignore the plaintive cries of your employees for legal counsel, and put your chief deputy, Rick Bistrow, on the job, organizing a whitewash.
Last week, Arizona Republic reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez scored a fistful of e-mails from AG underlings begging for lawyers in the wake of allegations by ex-AG employee Sarah Beattie, which implicate Horne's executive staff in campaign work on state time.
The e-mails were sent around noon on May 8, after interviews with Beattie had appeared both on this blog and in the Arizona Capitol Times. About a week earlier, Beattie's resignation letter, which stated that Horne's office was "not following campaign laws," had been made public.
Tom Horne's hatchet man, Chief Deputy Rick Bistrow
Sent to Horne's chief deputy, Eric "Rick" Bistrow, the e-mails from clearly concerned AG employees mirror each other and each contains the same opening line:
"Based on recent events, I am hereby formally requesting counsel be appointed me in the matter of Sarah Beattie claiming Campaign Finance & Elections Law Violations."
But the employees got the big brush-off. Stephanie Grisham, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, followed up again on May 14, two days after Beattie's attorney, Tom Ryan, filed his client's affidavit and supporting documents with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office and the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
"In light of these new developments," Grisham writes Bistrow in her second e-mail pertaining to this subject, "and the fact that I have to speak publicly to the press AND potential issues with directives from my boss going forward, may I have counsel?"
But these employees did not receive an official response until Sanchez did a records request for the e-mails, and the office was forced to release a statement, calling it "premature to provide counsel at the present time for AGO employees that have been mentioned in the affidavit. Only unsupported allegations have been made and it is unclear whether any employee, including the attorney general, is entitled to legal counsel."
Horne now is serving as his own attorney in the Beattie matter, ever since lawyer Dennis Wilenchik, a Horne supporter who employs Horne's mistress, ex-Assistant Attorney General Carmen Chenal, announced that he would be summering in Peru and the Galapagos Islands and would not be defending Horne.
In case you haven't seen it, on May 19, Wilenchik e-mailed the following to those involved:
After further review and consideration, and discussion with the Attorney General, I will not be representing him in either the Secretary of State matter or the Clean Elections matter from this date forward. Mr. Horne, it is my present understanding, will be representing himself in responding to both of your inquiries so you may deal with him directly. Thank you for you professional courtesy and cooperation extended to me previously.
Since I am headed to Peru and the Galapagos Islands through mid June starting this Wednesday I think I will be having the better time than working on this anyway. In any event, thanks again to all, and Mr. Horne is fully aware of your deadline of June 2nd and intends to comply with it. Have a wonderful summer (if there is such a thing here) and take care. There is no need to copy me on anything further with respect to this matter.
Good thing Horne has that Harvard Law degree, eh?