Who Will Rid Us of Tom Horne's Undead Political Circus?
Describing Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's scandal-a-second administration, Horne's Republican primary foe, former Arizona Department of Gaming director Mark Brnovich recently referenced the '60s bard born Robert Zimmerman.
"If you've ever listened to the song 'Desolation Row' by Bob Dylan, every day 'the circus is in town' when Tom Horne is attorney general," he cracked as we discussed some of the latest allegations of impropriety in the AG's Office.
He ain't kiddin'.
From Horne's hiring of his mistress, Carmen Chenal, at a six-figure salary as an assistant attorney general to his attempt to plug a leak about the affair with an internal investigation to AG investigator Meg Hinchey's discovery of evidence of campaign-finance impropriety to Horne's attempt to cover up that discovery to his retaliation against Hinchey for doing her duty and turning that info over to the FBI to Horne's vehicular hit-and-run during a rendezvous with Chenal to allegations by two Republican prosecutors that he broke state laws, the AG's black satire of a carnival never seems to end.
Actually, it's a circus of the undead, an amusement park filled with zombies, one presided over by a walking political cadaver.
Even as we wait for the decision of Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, a fellow GOPer, on whether she will accept the decision of a state administrative law judge not to ding Horne and zombie lieutenant Kathleen Winn $400,000 or more for alleged illegal coordination during the 2010 general election, there are more allegations, seemingly every day, of Horne and his soulless minions using his state office for his re-election effort.
This may come as a surprise to Arizonans used to desert corruption as plentiful as creosote, but these two things — a political campaign and a state office — are supposed to be kept separate.
In fact, there are state and federal laws to this effect. The federal Hatch Act became law in 1939, and it set into stone certain restrictions on political activity for those in government. It even applies to local and state agencies that accept federal funds. You know, like the AG's Office.
There also is Arizona's version, called a "little Hatch Act," which applies similar restrictions to state employees. And Horne's office is well aware of both the federal and state statutes.
In fact, a seven-page memo sent out to all AG employees last year in advance of the 2014 political season reminds AG staffers of the various dos and don'ts in regard to the Hatch Act and the little Hatch Act.
Some AG employees who report directly to Horne or to other high-ranking members of his staff are exempt from some of the more onerous restrictions.
Still, as the memo itself states, there's one constant for the exempt and non-exempt.
"Although public officers and employees may engage in certain types of political activity, no public resources may be used for this purpose," the memo states. "No public employee may participate in any political or campaign work while on the public's time, use public facilities, materials, and equipment for political or campaign activity, or travel at public expense for non-public purposes."
And yet Horne's Zombieland Amusement Park still is open for business.
Recent revelations of apparent political work done from the AG's Office make this painfully clear. Horne's "zombie McLovin," legislative liaison Brett Mecum, was caught on videotape dropping off a political complaint to the Arizona Secretary State's Office during a work day.
AG spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham, playing zombie Ron Ziegler to Horne's Dick Nixon (Google it, Millennials!) told Channel 12's Brahm Resnik that Mecum had dropped off the doc during his lunch hour.
But that was after Mecum insisted, as we chatted on Facebook, "I filed no complaint."
Leaving you to believe either Mecum or your lyin' eyes.
Before the Mecum interview, the Arizona Capitol Times revealed that Sarah Beattie, one of the AG's staffers and campaign volunteers, had fled the coop, stating in her resignation note that the AG's Office was "not following campaign laws or finance laws" and that she feared for her "legal well-being."
Smart move on her part, thus escaping possible zombification.
Beattie since has secured the legal assistance of the Irish wolfhound of Arizona election law, Chandler attorney Tom Ryan, who helped sink former state Senate President Russell Pearce during Pearce's 2011 recall.
Bombardier Ryan now has a new mission and is flying over Zombieland Amusement Park, ready to drop undead-obliterating bunker-busting bombs.
These are new accusations of Beattie's, backed up by documents she has provided Ryan, such as a flyer for a campaign fundraising event, which Ryan alleges was disseminated by one member of the AG's executive staff to others and was created by a "Brett" during work hours.
Ryan tells Horne in a recent litigation hold letter that this is just "one of many examples I have learned of improper use of the Executive Office for campaigning for your 2014 re-election process."
Plus, he advises Horne that more is on the way, per the request of a lawyer at the Secretary of State's Office, in a letter he is drafting as I type these words.
These new documents and allegations will involve Horne's ordering at least one subordinate to delete e-mails, coercion of subordinates to work on his re-election campaign and raise money for him, and Horne himself raising money for re-election from the AG's Office.
None of which is surprising. Scuttlebutt for years has it that Horne had his hacks labor on his campaigns while he was superintendent of public schools. And, to be honest, he'd hardly be the first Arizona pol to use his office in this manner.
What's different is that there is evidence, a growing Camelback Mountain-size pile of it — some supplied by Horne's own sloppiness.
For instance, as I revealed in a recent blog post, Horne apparently used his own campaign Gmail account to sign up for news and updates from the Brnovich campaign.
One of the Brnovich e-mail blasts announced a meet-and-greet with a Republican women's group in Prescott.
This apparently ticked off Horne. He meant to forward the e-mail with the following comment to someone else but hit "reply" instead.
"The Prescott Women's group is one of the largest in the country with about 450 members," Horne kvetches in the message. "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."
The time stamp on the e-mail says 2:32 p.m., but flack Grisham would have us believe that Horne sent the e-mail about 7 a.m., before he got to the office.
Brnovich campaign manager Ryan Anderson contested Grisham's spin, providing me with several screen shots of Horne's e-mail record from the software the campaign uses.
He noted that Horne "has opened the e-mail in question dozens of times during the work day."
Indeed, both Horne and staffers, such as Winn, Mecum, and Horne chief of staff Margaret Dugan, have opened these Brnovich campaign teases on numerous occasions this year, according to the software's records.
Both Winn and Dugan say they opened the e-mails at work, but Winn says she opened them just to delete them while Dugan says she did so on breaks or while in the ladies' room.
But this is picayune by comparison to the payload Tom Ryan's dropping soon.
Is this the end of Zombieland as we know it? We can only hope.
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