Tuesday, April 3, 2012

JUSTICE & FAIRNESS & IRONY, Continued: AG Tom Horne Killed HIS Complaint Against Anti-Horne Independent Expenditure Campaign (FOLLOWING MONEY IN ARIZONA'S POLITICS)

The following post raises some questions based upon facts observed in reviewing this story. This blog is not intended to be opinion-driven, but will label posts as "commentary" when necessary.

(((UPDATED 1:12pm:  It turns out that AG Horne's office did refer the CFJF/DAGA matter to an independent prosecutor - the Maricopa County Attorney's Office - shortly after taking office, and the MCAO took the CFJF before an Administrative Law Judge for violations of election laws. Details in post to follow.)))

One of the more intriguing aspects of the news about the FBI investigation into Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has yet to be explored:  He was not just on the receiving end of a complaint relating to the independent expenditure ad campaigns that dominated Arizona media in the fall of 2010; he was a complainant.  He was not just being investigated; he was demanding an investigation.  He was not the target of possible legal action; he was the initiator of legal action.  And, the topper:  a complaint he initiated against the Democratic Attorneys General Association apparently DIED ON HIS DESK!

Say WHAT?!?

Horne's Democratic opponent, Felecia Rotellini, was the beneficiary of a fierce independent expenditure campaign by a group calling itself the Committee for Justice and Fairness ("CFJF").  As reported by Arizona's Politics, that "group" was a front for the Democratic Attorneys General Association ("DAGA").  The ads were apparently in violation of a number of Arizona election laws, and Horne filed suit in Maricopa County Superior Court to stop them.  He was unsuccessful, but he was able to get Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (Repub.) to file a complaint against CFJF/DAGA with then-Attorney General (and candidate-for-Governor) Terry Goddard (Dem.).

For obvious reasons - both partisan, conflict of interest (Goddard was a member of DAGA), and proximity to the election - the complaint sat in the AG's office until after the election.  It was noted that Goddard could have referred it to an independent prosecutor, even after the election.  Horne inherited his own complaint when he assumed office in January 2011.

Obviously, he also had a conflict of interest and could have referred it out to an independent prosecutor;  he chose not to.   It could have been seen as vindictiveness, or as being unnecessary in light of the result.  In light of the new developments, it could also be seen as not wanting to open oneself up to counterattacks.

The CFJF/DAGA incident deserved - and, deserves - investigation.  When an organization made up of attorneys general of various states engages in political conduct that apparently violates the election laws of one of its member's states, and then denies and hides, it should be held to the strictest scrutiny and be held fully accountable for any violations (ethical and/or legal).  That could - and should - still happen in this case.  As the title of my post on October 22, 2010, put it: "If There's Justice & Fairness, There Will Also Be Irony;  Democratic AGs' Group Could Be Hit Hard, Too"!

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com or call 602-799-7025. Thanks.

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