Attorney general fined for using staff on campaign

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By Chloe Nordquist By Chloe Nordquist

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has agreed to pay $10,000 of his own money to settle allegations from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission that he used office staff on his failed re-election campaign.

The proposed settlement released Wednesday will not stop a separate investigation into allegations made by a former staffer that Horne was essentially running his re-election campaign using his executive staff at the attorney general's office.

Horne said he would not comment until the agreement is formally accepted at Thursday's commission meeting.

As part of the settlement, Horne agreed to amend his campaign finance reports if the separate civil investigation requested by the secretary of state concludes that is necessary. That investigation was handed over to a retired court of appeals judge and Gilbert's town attorney and is ongoing.

"We think it fair resolution. A $10,000 fine is a significant campaign finance penalty," said Tom Collins, the commission's executive director. "And the public will still have an opportunity to have the investigation that the Gilbert town attorney and Judge (Daniel) Barker are concluding."

As part of the settlement, Horne acknowledged that public employees cannot campaign on state time.

The Maricopa County attorney also is investigating former staffer Sarah Beattie's complaint that she and many other members of Horne's executive staff worked on his re-election campaign. Horne sued to block that probe, arguing County Attorney Bill Montgomery was a political opponent, but a judge refused to stop the investigation.

Horne lost to Mark Brnovich in August's Republican primary. Brnovich went on to beat Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the general election and takes office in January.

Horne is still fighting an order from the Yavapai County attorney that he violated campaign laws during his 2010 election effort. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge last month refused to throw out a fining that Horne and aide Kathleen Winn illegally coordinated outside spending during that campaign.

Judge Crane McClennen issued an order this week staying the enforcement order while Horne and Winn appeal.

Polk has ordered Horne to repay $400,000 to donors to the outside group that ran ads attacking his opponent and amend his campaign finance reports. He and Winn also could face up to $1.2 million in fines, three times the amount Polk says was improperly spent.

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