Horne aide testifies in campaign finance case

Posted: Updated:
By Tom Tingle By Tom Tingle

PHOENIX (AP) -- An aide to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne testified Wednesday that she never had illegal communications with him about an independent campaign she ran to back him during his 2010 election bid.

Kathleen Winn said that she had become friends with Horne during the 2010 primary campaign but told him she would stop work on his official campaign to instead help raise money and spend it independently in the general election.

Horne and Winn deny the civil allegation of illegal campaign coordination brought by the Yavapai County attorney in October. They are accused of working together on a campaign ad paid for by an independent group Winn was running called Business Leaders for Arizona. That "coordination" is illegal in Arizona. The group collected money to buy an ad attacking Horne's Democratic opponent in 2010.

Winn said when she told Horne about her plans in early October 2010, he advised her on campaign finance laws dealing with outside groups and referred her to a lawyer, who gave her advice on what she was allowed to do.

She acknowledged speaking with Horne regularly, but not about her campaign efforts. Prosecutors believe that there is evidence on specific days of illegal coordination, citing calls with Horne on a day when an ad was finalized with a political consultant. Winn says she and Horne only spoke about a real estate transaction that day, which is not illegal.

"I even asked my attorney if I could talk to Tom Horne, and I could talk to Tom Horne, just not about this campaign," Winn said under questioning from her lawyer, Timothy La Sota.

Horne could take the stand in his defense later Wednesday.

Yavapai County prosecutors are trying to show that Winn consulted with Horne before giving final approval for an ad targeting Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the 2010 general election. They point to a series of emails and phone records showing Horne communicated with Winn as she was giving final approval for an ad campaign overseen by consultant Brian Murray. They acknowledge the evidence against the pair is purely circumstantial.

An FBI agent who led a criminal investigation into possible campaign-finance violations that did not result in charges testified Tuesday he collected no direct evidence that Horne conspired with an aide to sidestep state campaign finance laws. But he said he determined that a string of emails and phone calls on key days shows that they were illegally coordinating efforts.

FBI agent Brian Grehoski is a key witness, because although that probe led to no charges, it forms the basis for the civil allegations.

Judge Tammy Eigenheer of the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings is overseeing this week's hearing.

Her ruling will likely not be the end of the case, however, because Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk can accept or reject her findings and impose sanctions herself. She determined in October that Horne violated the law and must repay $400,000 to donors and pay three times that amount in fines.

Lawyers for Horne and Winn are also laying the groundwork for an appeal if they lose.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.