Ariz. AG investigated for hit-and-run, campaign finance violations

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by Jennifer Thomas

Video report by Dennis Welch, 3TV Political Editor

Posted on October 1, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 1 at 9:18 PM

PHOENIX – An investigation has uncovered alleged campaign finance violations and evidence of a hit-and-run collision involving Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, according to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Montgomery is initiating a civil enforcement action against Horne and Kathleen Winn, general director of community outreach for the Attorney General's Office, for alleged campaign finance violations committed during the 2010 election cycle.

The allegations stem from an 11-month-long FBI investigation into Business Leaders for Arizona (BLA), an independent expenditure committee chaired by Winn and operated in close coordination with Horne in violation of A.R.S. § 16-917.

The investigation also uncovered evidence of a misdemeanor vehicular hit-and-run collision involving Horne. The Phoenix Police Department is investigating the incident, which is alleged to have occurred at approximately 12:45 p.m. on March 27 at Second Avenue and Roosevelt Street. Sgt. Trent Crump said the collision involved property damage only. The investigation is expected to take several weeks to complete.

According to the results of the FBI's investigation, Horne actively directed BLA's fundraising and communications strategy with Winn in the final weeks of his 2010 campaign for attorney general. During this time period, BLA raised more than $500,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee and individual donors which paid for television advertisements advocating against Felicia Rotellini, Horne's Democrat opponent. 

After reviewing the investigation, Secretary of State Ken Bennett determined there was reasonable cause to believe Horne and Winn's actions violated civil statutes governing independent expenditures and directed the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to initiate an enforcement action pursuant to its statutory authority.

Montgomery intends to issue an order requiring compliance by BLA and the Tom Horne for Attorney General campaign committee, followed by an order assessing a civil penalty. The penalty for violating A.R.S. § 16-917 is three times the cost of the literature or advertisement that was distributed.

“The conduct in question is expressly prohibited by Arizona's election laws and we will work to hold those responsible accountable,” Montgomery said in a media release.

In August, Montgomery initiated a separate civil enforcement action against the Committee for Justice and Fairness, an independent expenditure committee that paid for commercials advocating against Horne's candidacy for attorney general and which failed to register with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. Oral argument in this matter is scheduled for Oct. 8.

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