***Please see the update at this blog's end.***
Attorney General Tom Horne's getting the band back together.
Yep, with 2014 'round the corner, the Man Who Knows No Shame, is relying on a little help from the same crowd who got him over the finish line in 2010, specifically, attorney Mark Goldman and former Governor Fife Symington.
Both Goldman and Symington, you'll recall, were donors to the infamous "Business Leaders for Arizona," a pro-Horne independent expenditure committee from the 2010 election once led by Kathleen Winn, currently the outreach director for the AG's office.
Now, despite an ongoing inquiry by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk into allegations of campaign finance violations by Horne and BLA, both Goldman and Symington are busy fundraising for Horne.
Also, Chuck Coughlin's HighGround Public Affairs is helping out with the collection of cash, and by occasionally carrying water for Horne in the media.
(Note: Coughlin responded to a request for comment after this blog was published. Please see his remarks below.)
Goldman recently sent out a mass e-mail invite for "A Musical Soiree to Honor Attorney General Tom Horne," a reception to be held at chez Goldman on October 5, in support of Horne's 2014 re-election effort.
"There will be delicious food, beverages, interesting people, and engaging conversation for all who attend," writes Goldman, "plus live entertainment by Tom, himself, on the piano."
That last bit means Horne will assault the ivories with his rendition of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which he plays ad nauseam at public gatherings.
"Any amount you can contribute will be appreciated," the invite states to possible party-goers. "Maximum $4,000 per person, $8,000 per couple."
I did phone Goldman to ask him if he was at all ashamed to be throwing a wing-ding for Horne while Polk was still looking at Business Leaders for Arizona, on which Goldman dropped $5,000 in 2010.
Goldman related that he'd had a hard day and was watching a rerun of Frazier. He asked if I could I call him at a more decent hour, being that it was mid-evening.
I did try him the next day, but his phone mailbox was full.
Paragon of virtue and erstwhile Arizona chief exec Fife Symington gave $500 to BLA in 2010.
And according to an entirely different mass e-mail sent out by HighGround operative Kate Fassett, Symington hosted a recent fundraiser for the AG, held at Symington's Scottsdale abode.
Those not able to attend were invited to make their checks payable to "Tom Horne 2014" and mail them to Fassett at HighGround's office at 830 N. 4th Avenue in Phoenix.
Coughlin has been talking up Horne's chances of re-election at least since April of this year, when he told local scribbler Howie Fischer that Horne had weathered his scandals well and "could play the martyr victim" when it came to the FBI tailing him.
Problem is, any mention of the FBI opens a door to a discussion of the vehicular hit and run thatHorne pleaded no contest to, paying a $300 fine as a result.
That fender bender, witnessed by FBI agents, took place during a lunchtime office-break at the apartment complex where Horne's alleged mistress Carmen Chenal resided.
Chenal, who was in the car with him, and whom Horne had hired as an assistant AG at $108,000 per year, recently left the AG's employ, basically to clear the decks for Horne to run for re-election.
Hiring your mistress for a six figure salary on the state payroll and backing into another vehicle without leaving a note are just the twin tips of an iceberg of bad behavior by the AG, but the general public will need to be reminded of such transgressions by Horne's challengers or by independent expenditure committees targeting Horne.
In the 2014 general, Horne likely will face Democrat Felecia Rotellini again. Rotellini lost by a little less than four percentage points in 2010, and was the target of an attack ad paid for by BLA. So she'll be looking to nail Horne's head to her wall.
Meanwhile, Horne will be facing former Department of Gaming Director Mark Brnovich in a GOP primary that Horne must hate the thought of. (Brnovich has all but formally announced.)
Brnovich is being backed by some prominent Rs, and he has a c.v. that includes stints at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Arizona.
Dems will not like his former affiliation with private prison giant CCA, but GOPers could care less about that. CCA will only be a problem for him, if he first topples Horne.
Horne's folks are variously trying to characterize Brnovich as a neophyte and as an establishment candidate, as he apparently has the backing of Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery and has been seen (by the Yellow Sheet) lunching with Monty, prominent Republican Steve Twist and former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl.
Thing is, Horne is still AG, and that goes a long way in squeezing cash out of the recalcitrant. Plus, he has powerful players on his side, such as Coughlin. Not to mention pals and family members with deep pockets, and reputedly some deep pockets of his own to draw on.
Add to this, Horne's seeming ability to cheat political death over and over again, Arizonans' tolerance for corruption, Horne's willingness to fight like a banshee, his high name recognition, and I certainly can't count the guy out, even with the gaping hole in his side caused by the FBI probe.
Update 2:36PM: Arizona's best known eminence grise Chuck Coughlin called me after this blog was published to deny that he's working for Horne "in any professional capacity."
Then he went on to tell me that he would vote for Horne and that he just wrote Horne a check. Though he declined to say how much.
"Well, you'll see that when it comes out in the report," he said, referring to the first campaign finance filings in January. "That'll give you something to write about then."
So, um, what about the mass e-mailed invite for the Horne fundraiser put on by Symington, which was sent out by HighGround's Fassett?
"I asked her to help [Fife]," Coughlin explained. "Fife and [Horne] go back a long ways. He was Fife's lawyer in private life way back...Fife said, `Hey, can you help me?' I said sure. So we helped set up a fundraiser and do what we can. And when Tom calls, I obviously take his calls. He asks for my advice, I provide it."
Which sounds to me like HighGround is helping Horne in his re-election bid. Would Coughlin do the same for Brnovich, for instance?
"I would not," he said. "I'm not a fan."
Why is that? Coughlin said it was because Brnovich was leaving the Arizona Gaming Department "at a time when there's a lot up in the air." He also opined that he didn't think Brnovich had done a good job running that department, though he didn't get into specifics.
"And he's from the Goldwater Insitute," said Coughlin of one of Brnovich's former employers, "and I've never been a fan of the Goldwater Institute."
Coughlin then went on to offer a vigorous defense of the AG.
"He does pretty much what he says he's going to do," Coughlin stated. "His problems have been unrelated to the practice of being Attorney General."
Well, except for hiring his mistress as an Assistant AG at a six figure salary, but I digress.
What about the theory that Rotellini will cream Horne in a general, so better to go with an R sans baggage?
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"I think that's all current popular culture thinking," he said, adding, "I think people far overestimate any opponent, be that Brnovich or Rotellini or whomever else. Usually incumbents defeat themselves. And that may happen here. It still may happen. But it's difficult to take out an incumbent who has actually accomplished [or] at least lived up to his record of what he said he'd do while in office."
I observed, again, that it sure sounded like he was working for Horne.
"I'm not being paid," he insisted. "But I'm voting for him."
You heard it here first, folks: Chuck Coughlin does freebies. At least in the case of a certain Republican incumbent with a recent history of female troubles.