When it comes to state Attorney General Tom Horne's campaign-finance scandal, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is taking enforcement action.
Meanwhile, Montgomery's got his 2012 campaign to run.
And one of his campaign consultants is Chris Baker, a key figure in another major campaign-finance scandal.
We asked Montgomery to comment on the irony inherent in those facts, but after spending two hours talking to reporters today about Horne, the county attorney's apparently done chatting with reporters. He didn't return our messages.
To be clear, we're not alleging that Montgomery himself did anything like that alleged against Horne or Chris Baker. But this isn't the first time we've noticed that "honor" has a flexible definition for Montgomery when it comes to the cut-throat game of politics.
In a conversation with County Supervisor Don Stapley that was recorded secretly in 2010, Montgomery described Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a daffy senior citizen who had been fooled by his then-chief deputy into attacking county leaders. Yet Montgomery owes his job to Arpaio, who bent election law to run ads that benefited Montgomery. Montgomery also sucks up to lawyer Mark Goldman, an ally of Arpaio and disbarred former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, for money.
Now, Montgomery's going after Horne for campaign-finance law violations. Supposedly, these violations are worse than the violations that helped Montgomery for which Arpaio was sanctioned.
Even more ironic, though, is that Montgomery's campaign confirms that Chris Baker is being used occasionally as a consultant.
The allegation by Montgomery against Horne is that the state AG coordinated with an independent expenditure campaign to benefit Horne's campaign. Baker played an important role in Arpaio's infamous -- and similar -- SCA scandal, in which an independent expenditure campaign raised money that benefited Arpaio in 2008.
Baker, a GOP consultant, was the link between Arpaio's campaign and the independent expenditure campaign that ran a sleazy TV ad against Dan Saban, Arpaio's Democratic competitor in 2008.
Hendershott, the chief deputy Montgomery believes fooled Arpaio and who had been acting as Arpaio's campaign manager in 2008, introduced Baker at a restaurant to two deputies who had been helping Hendershott collect money on behalf of Arpaio. The money was put into a secret account by a shadowy group -- the Sheriff's Command Association, or SCA.
Baker accepted more than $105,000 from the deputies that had been donated by a few high-ranking deputies and big-wigs like developer Steve Ellman. Then Baker worked on the ad for the independent expenditure committee formed by state GOP workers, all in apparent conjunction with a prior plan to earmark the funds illegally for Arpaio's campaign.
Baker admitted on the witness stand during an appeal hearing for Joel Fox, the deputy who had helped coordinate the fund-raising, that he had lied to state Attorney General's Office investigators about knowing Hendershott. He also said he'd lied to Randy Pullen, the state GOP chair in 2008, about contacting Fox to ask for the names of contributors. However, the latter may itself had been another lie by Baker, because the evidence dug up by a state investigation showed that Pullen knew the details of the scheme by Hendershott and Fox, and therefore would likely not have asked Baker to question Fox.
Arpaio has never told the truth about his own involvement in the SCA. (And no direct evidence has ever surfaced to indicate he personally directed the violations, whereas in Horne's case some interesting e-mails have been released.)
Baker's role in the SCA scandal should be troubling to anyone familiar with the case, as Montgomery should be. After a criminal investigation into the SCA by former state Attorney General Terry Goddard failed to produce a grand jury indictment, and after Tom Horne took office, the case was referred to the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office for possible charges.
It seems likely that the feds are no longer looking into the SCA case, following the announcement that the criminal investigation into Arpaio's office had been dropped. However, we heard recently that the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office may still be looking at the SCA case. The federal prosecution agency hasn't yet gotten back to us on that question.
Baker's also a campaign consultant for Arizona Congressman David Schweikert. But Montgomery's use of Baker comes off as more hypocritical, since Schweikert didn't hold a news conference today to announce he was taking action against Horne in a case similar to the one Baker had helped coordinate.