Tom Horne's Office in Free Fall over Allegations of Using Public Office, Staff for Campaign Purposes
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office has been in crisis mode this week over allegations that his staffers have been doing campaign work on the public dime.
First, on Monday, the resignation note of AG staffer and Horne campaign volunteer Sarah Beattie was leaked to the Arizona Capitol Times.
Then Tuesday night, Channel 12's Brahm Resnik broadcast a video that's been kicking around the Arizona press corps for a couple of weeks, showing AG legislative aide Brett Mecum -- he of Captain America fame -- dropping off a campaign-related complaint to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.
Now comes the pièce de résistance: On Tuesday, Horne mistakenly responded to a fundraising e-mail from the campaign of his Republican rival Mark Brnovich.
Horne: The guy can't even forward an e-mail right...
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Best guess is Horne wanted to hit "forward" instead of "reply."
But he did the latter, and his gripe about the Republican women of Prescott is recorded for posterity.
"The Prescott Women's group is one of the largest in the country with about 450 members," sniffs Horne. "They were always very supportive of me. Now they're reported as angry I wouldn't do a joint appearance there. This host list includes a number of people who used to support me."
Gee, Tom, like some cheese with that whine?
Horne's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham acknowledged that Horne sent the e-mail.
However, she claimed that Horne "did not use his office computer," and that, "as I understand it he sent it around 7 a.m.," as opposed to the information on the e-mail.
She maintained that she was in the office then, but Horne was not.
Grisham's had a tough week, and now her boss -- Elmer Fudd incarnate -- bumbles his way into another embarrassment.
I almost, kinda feel sorry for her. (Not really.)
Brnovich spokesman Ryan Anderson didn't buy Grisham's 7 a.m. story, and gave me a run-down of what his computer records show.
"The Brnovich campaign first sent the Prescott invite email at 1:35 p.m. on Tuesday, 4/29," Anderson explained via e-mail. "We were perplexed and amused when we received an accidental reply email directly from Tom Horne himself at 2:32 p.m."
(Note: The Brnovich camp says it sent the mass e-mail at 1:35 p.m., but Horne's e-mail specifically did not go out to him till 1:36 p.m., according to the screenshot below.)
"Anyone who says that Tom's accidental response message was sent outside of regular work hours is either confused or is lying as the invite wasn't even drafted until 9:13 a.m. on Tuesday. Tom is correct in one respect though - his support is eroding in Prescott and across the state."
Anderson claimed that Horne "has opened the email in question dozens of times during the work day since yesterday."
The campaign operative said the campaign uses the marketing software Contactology to keep track of those who sign up for Brnovich's e-mail blasts. He sent over a few screenshots of Horne's account.
Part of Horne's viewing history from Contactology (click for larger image)...
He admitted it was possible that anyone who knew Horne's email could have signed him up.
But the e-mail can only be opened from the address in question. And in any case, the AG's office is not denying that Horne opened and responded to the Brnovich message.
"Looks like Tom Horne has been on an extended lunch break since yesterday," quipped Anderson.
That's a reference to the Mecum video, and the excuse AG flack Grisham gave Resnik.
The video shows Mecum, with Beattie in tow, entering the Executive Tower of the state Capitol before noon on February 11.
The pair then get out of the elevator at the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, just minutes before the document in question was filed at 11:56 a.m.
Mecum after dropping off the complaint at the SOS: Who you gonna believe, your lyin' eyes, or him?
AG spokeswoman Grisham told Resnik that Mecum and Beattie were on their lunch breaks.
Which may be true. But that was not Mecum's answer to me when I asked about him dropping off the document.
On Monday, Mecum told me via Facebook that, "I don't do anything political on state time."
I replied that he was not answering my question, and pressed, "Did you file this complaint at 1156 a.m., as the time stamp says?"
Mecum answered broadly: "I filed no complaint."
After Resnik's broadcast aired Tuesday night, I asked Mecum about the discrepancy.
"Steve, as you know, I'm on state time right now, but my original comments to you are accurate," he replied, again via Facebook.
I asked him how that could be, and he repeated himself, then told me to ask Grisham. Which I did. But I've gotten no response from her on that query.
The document Mecum dropped off that day was an appeal of an SOS decision rejecting an earlier complaint by Horne.
The original complaint had to do with anti-Horne ads paid for by the conservative Republican group, the Arizona Public Integrity Alliance.
The appeal was signed by former governor Fife Symington and state Senator Don Shooter, both Horne backers. The SOS has declined to take any action in the matter.
Why did Mecum have this document? Who gave it to him and asked that he drop it off at the SOS? Who drafted it?
These questions remain unanswered.
Beattie originally had a press conference scheduled for Tuesday morning at the offices of Tom Ryan, the Irish wolfhound of Arizona election law.
But she canceled, likely frightened off by the viciousness of the response from the Horne camp.
Horne himself is quoted in the Arizona Republic calling allegations in the Beattie resignation note a "complete fabrication."
Said the man caught doing a vehicular hit and run, with his mistress in the car.
Thing is, Beattie is not suing Horne, did not invoke whistle-blower protection, and seems genuinely gun-shy of media attention.
And Horne has all the credibility of Vladimir Putin discussing world peace.
There long have been rumors and suggestions that some of Horne's staff do campaign work on state time, going back to when Horne was Arizona's Schools' Superintendent.
Public employees are restricted by federal and state law regarding when, where and what kind of politicking they can do. Campaigning on state time and/or with state resources is generally a no-no.
Proving such violations are notoriously difficult. Still, during the hearing in February into Horne's campaign finance shenanigans, FBI agent Brian Grehoski admitted that the file on Horne is still open.
Maybe it's time for Grehoski or some of his fellow agents to dive once more into Horne's morass of corruption. They never did reach the bottom last time.
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