Amid investigation, Arizona attorney general Horne should resign
Arizona’s top prosecutor, Tom Horne, who as superintendent of public instruction led efforts to dismantle TUSD’s ethnic studies program, has been accused of illegally coordinating with an independent expenditure committee that spent more than $500,000 on TV advertisements attacking his Democratic opponent Felicia Rotellini in the 2010 campaign for attorney general.
Horne and those accused of being involved in this deliberate violation of campaign finance law have flatly denied any wrongdoing, but the 14-month long FBI investigation into Horne’s actions has produced evidence that is not only probative, but damning.
Horne’s malfeasance was first brought to the attention of authorities in 2011 by his former assistant attorney general and GOP ally, Don Dybus, whom Horne claims is a disgruntled employee seeking to exact retribution.
Although his motives are unclear, Dybus’ close involvement in Horne’s 2010 campaign lends credence to his allegation.
The independent expenditure committee that Horne is accused of collaborating with is Business Leaders for Arizona, which was led by Kathleen Winn, the founder and chairwoman of the committee who has also been implicated in the scandal.
Winn volunteered for Horne’s primary campaign in 2010 and was purportedly promised an executive position in Horne’s office as a veritable kickback for handling the committee.
Campaign finance law allows candidates to have contact with independent expenditure committees only if there is no coordination or direction of the committee’s expenditures.
The probe into Horne’s actions reveals that he and Winn called each other a total of 150 times in the weeks leading up to the general election, and that Horne’s millionaire brother-in-law, Richard G. Newman, gave $115,000 to Business Leaders for America during an eight-day period in October 2010, roughly 20 percent of the $515,080 raised.
During this time, Horne was not only running for attorney general, but, as the state’s superintendent of instruction, was in the middle of quashing Tucson Unified School District’s ethnic studies program.
While denying Mexican-American students their right to learn may have earned Horne the respect of Arizona’s xenophobic crowd, if he thought that illegally colluding with the chairwoman of an independent expenditure committee would further his career, he’s quite wrong. Horne could face civil charges for this lapse of sound judgment, and his hopes of becoming governor could be dashed.
The Horne investigation also reveals corruption at the highest levels of our local government. The attorney general will now join the ranks of Sherriff Joe Arpaio and Russell Pearce, two other men who betrayed the public’s trust and are paying for it.
Instead of waiting to be forced out of office, Horne should do himself a favor and resign.
When you flagrantly violate the laws you were entrusted to uphold and defend, you no longer deserve the privilege of holding higher office.