Feathered Bastard

Bill Montgomery Screws Up Tom Horne Complaint, Judge Recommends Dismissal

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Starting in 2011, Horne's office became the target of a massive FBI investigation, one in which scores of AG employees, donors to Horne, campaign workers, and Horne's family members were interviewed by the feds.

The FBI involved the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. And Horne himself was tailed by FBI agents.

Out of this morass came allegations of coverup, coaching witnesses, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice. However, no criminal charges were ever filed by either the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.

In September, Montgomery forwarded to Bennett an investigation into whether Horne had engaged in illegal coordination in 2010 with Business Leaders for Arizona, an independent expenditure committee headed by Kathleen Winn, a former Horne volunteer who is now Horne's outreach director at the AG's office.

During the 2010 general election, BLA raised more than $500,000 to fund an attack ad against Horne's Democratic rival Felecia Rotellini. Some say the ad tipped the election in Horne's favor.

After Bennett reviewed the investigative file, he sent the matter back to Montgomery with a reasonable cause notice, finding that there was evidence of coordination, in violation of state statutes.

In doing so, Bennett chose Montgomery to enforce Arizona campaign-finance law, based on a new law that said the SOS could select outside counsel in place of the AG.

On October 11, Montgomery declared Horne and Winn to be in violation and ordered them to pay back BLA's donors the money BLA had spent. Horne and Winn immediately appealed to the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings.

But Eigenheer ruled that, according to statute, Bennett should have made his probable cause finding to the AG's Office. The AG then would have had to declare a conflict of interest (obviously) and choose a different law enforcement agency to handle the matter.

"Because the Secretary of State did not have statutory authority to refer the matter to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for civil enforcement," writes Eigenheer, "the Maricopa County Attorney's Office did not have the legal authority to issue the order requiring compliance."

She continues, "Thus, as a matter of law, the order requiring compliance is void . . . which requires dismissal of this matter."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons