AG Horne's campaign finance case heads to trial

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Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne By Jennifer Thomas Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne heads to court Monday. But this time the state's top law enforcement officer isn't the prosecutor.

Instead, Horne and one of his aides are facing civil charges of violating the state's campaign finance laws when he ran for re-election four years ago.

Horne and aide Kathleen Winn deny the allegations that they illegally coordinated spending in his 2010 election while she ran an independent committee called Business Leaders for Arizona.

The charges were brought by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk in October. A three-day hearing is scheduled before an Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings judge starting Monday.

Polk determined that the pair violated state campaign finance rules and ordered Horne to return nearly $400,000 to donors and amend his campaign finance reports. She also is seeking civil penalties of three times the amount.

Horne tried to settle the case in recent weeks, but he could not do so.

"They wanted an admission of liability, and even if I decided intellectually that it was in my interest to settle I couldn't get that through my throat," Horne said on Jan. 31. "Because it isn't true, there was no coordination."

Polk found reasonable cause to believe Horne and Winn worked together to raise about $500,000 through the Business Leaders for Arizona group she chaired.

Facing a tough election challenge in 2010, Horne and Winn allegedly worked together to raise money for the outside group she headed to pay for negative ads targeting Democrat Felecia Rotellini.

Horne was able to raise only $540,000, compared with his Democratic opponent's $699,000.

When an outside group began spending $1.5 million attacking Horne, the group Winn headed raised money to counter those efforts

Horne, a Republican, is the state's top law enforcement officer. He defeated Rotellini, a former prosecutor and bank regulator, by about 63,000 votes out of a total of 1.6 million ballots cast in the 2010 general election for attorney general.

Horne is seeking a second term as attorney general, but he faces a GOP challenger in the September primary, Mark Brnovich. Rotellini also is running again.

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