Lucky for Tom Horne, he’s not a police officer

AZ Attny General Tom Horne

If Attorney General Tom Horne were an Arizona police officer, he’d lose his job. Actually, he never would have had the AG job in the first place.

As pointed out by Bill Richardson, a retired Mesa cop and columnist for the East Valley Tribune, Horne’s past legal problems, which include a lifetime sanction from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for violating anti-fraud provisions and filing false financial reports as well as his failure to disclose a bankruptcy with the Arizona Corporation Commission (a possible felony charge), would have prevented him from becoming a police officer.

Luckily, Tom Horne isn’t a police officer. No, instead he’s the man responsible for ensuring the enforcement of state laws by all law enforcement agencies, a position commonly referred to as “Arizona’s top cop.”

And now our “top cop” has been charged with deliberately breaking campaign finance laws by illegally coordinating with an independent expenditure. And one more little tidbit… he may soon be charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

Everyone in politics knows it’s illegal for a candidate to confer with an independent expenditure. And though any friend or even former campaign volunteer or staffer can start an IE, most politicians will take extra precautions to ensure that once an IE is established, he/she remains out of contact with the committee.

And everyone, regardless of whether or not he/she is a member of the law enforcement community, knows it’s illegal to run into a car and drive away.

But Tom Horne says he can explain all that. He says he didn’t know he had caused any damage to the vehicle he hit. Of course he didn’t. That’s because, according to what the F.B.I. reported, he left the scene without bothering to get out of his car and check.

He said his email and phone conversations with Kathleen Winn, the woman who was running the independent expenditure and was later hired by Mr. Horne to work in the AG’s office, were actually related to a real estate transaction he was working on with her. But if that were the case, wouldn’t she refer those dealings to another agent just to avoid the appearance of collusion?

Even Brian Murray, the creator of the committee’s television ads expressed concerns. He told his firm’s attorney, “I warned (Winn) on numerous occasions that she needed to cease contact with the candidate and any agents of the campaign.”

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery declined charging Horne with anything criminal, saying that under current statutes, a civil penalty is all that he can do. Though as one reporter noted, Montgomery could (and many argue, should) call on Mr. Horne to resign.

Perhaps the most ironic part of this saga is the fact that the Attorney General’s Office is the one charged with prosecuting campaign finance violations. Obviously, neither Mr. Horne nor his office will prosecute this case. And considering that several other state politicians have participated in questionable campaign tactics (Russell Pearce a la Olivia Cortez comes to mind), can we seriously trust him to oversee those cases should prosecution be warranted?

This is not the first time that Tom Horne has been charged with knowingly disobeying the law. Or even the second. How many more strikes until he’s out?

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