Horne responds to election law complaint

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX (AP) -- A former employee who alleges Attorney General Tom Horne used his office staff to do work on his re-election campaign has a history of making false claims against her employers and should not be believed, Horne said in a formal response Monday.

Horne said in his response to Sarah Beattie's complaint that the 26-year-old also failed to disclose previous drug use and having once worked as a stripper when she applied for a job in his office last year. Horne says either would have prevented her from being hired.

Beattie's attorney, Tom Ryan, said she disclosed both to Brett Mecum, the attorney general's lobbyist who recruited her.

Beattie claims the Republican attorney general violated state election laws by directing his executive staff to work on his campaign while on state time. The complaint was filed last month with the Arizona secretary of state and Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Horne has publicly denied the allegations, saying staffers may have engaged in "water-cooler" talk but did no real campaign work on state time.

He also said Beattie was apparently bitter because she was expected to do eight hours of state work while also being a campaign volunteer. He also has called her lawyer "a known political hack" who regularly attacks Republicans.

"I was worried about what his response might be - I thought it might be substantive," Ryan said of Horne's filing. "Instead what we have is an attack and distract strategy that's he's engaged in."

The attorney general is defending himself without an outside attorney.

The secretary of state and Clean Elections Commission will determine whether there's reasonable cause to initiate formal investigations. The secretary of state could refer the complaint to Horne's solicitor general. Horne spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham has said the case would then be referred to an outside agency for a civil investigation that could lead to an enforcement action and fines.

The commission can initiate its own investigation that also could lead to fines.

In another section of Horne's response, he accuses Beattie of stealing a notebook containing donor lists and handing it over to her lawyer, who held it up for a news photographer. He also says she stole "intellectual property," including meeting notes and a campaign "strengths and weaknesses" presentation that were included in the complaint.

"This was for the purpose of politically damaging Horne, and of giving significant advantages to Horne's political opponents," Horne wrote in his response.

Ryan said Horne or others in the office gave her all those items, and they weren't stolen. He included those documents in the complaint and also turned them over to police and the FBI.

"When you have evidence of a crime and you turn that over ... to police agencies, how is that a crime?" Ryan said. "That is what our top cop is saying here."

Horne is appealing a separate campaign violation complaint stemming from his 2010 election bid. Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk accused Horne and an aide of illegally coordinating outside campaign spending. In that case, Horne has been ordered to repay about $400,000 to donors and could be fined up to three times that amount.

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