Feathered Bastard

Tom Horne's Hearings Rescheduled: Will the AG Beat the Rap?

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's corruption is blatant, in your face, unrepentant.

Yet, given the machinations of Horne's lawyers, who are battling both Horne's misdemeanor fender-bender charge with the City of Phoenix, and the civil, campaign finance law complaint brought by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, I suspect he will escape all but the mildest of sanctions.

See also: -Arizona AG Tom Horne's Sex Scandal Scuttles Gubernatorial Bid

Hearings in both cases recently have been rescheduled. Last week, Horne's attorney Michael Kimerer asked for the postponement of a pre-trial hearing in the Horne hit-and-run case set for Monday in Phoenix Municipal Court. Horne has pleaded not guilty in the case.

The court granted Kimerer's request, putting off the hearing till January 18.

"Defense counsel has been provided extensive discovery in this case, which requires additional time to evaluate completely," Kimerer states in his motion.

He relates that he must "schedule interviews with several critical witnesses," and mentions that he is "hopeful that a resolution of this case can be obtained."

Kimerer adds, "To that effect counsel has had ongoing communications with the City Prosecutor regarding a settlement."

In other words, it's good to be the AG. Even if two FBI agents witness you do a hit-and-run on a car parked near the pad of your alleged mistress Carmen Chenal, you know, the one pulling a six-figure salary at taxpayer expense, conviction remains a longshot.

Then there's the whole issue of election-year "coordination" between Horne and Business Leaders for Arizona, the independent expenditure committee once run by Horne's now-head of outreach, the irrepressible Kathleen Winn.

As I mentioned in my recent cover story on General Horne-dog's Chenal-gate, both Horne and Winn, hypothetically could be on the hook for $1 million in fines each.

But the audio recording of a December 6 hearing before Administrative Law Judge Tammy Eigenheer, who will be deciding on a Winn-Horne appeal of an order by County Attorney Montgomery to return all of the money Winn raised through BLA, does not fill the listener with the sense of impending justice.

Administrative law hearings can be pretty casual affairs. This one was unusually cordial.

In it, lawyers for Horne, Winn and the county attorney discussed procedural matters with Eigenheer, and put off the scheduled, six day January 22 hearing on the alleged campaign finance violation, at least till February 25.

Two issues need to be resolved, according to the law hounds: the definition of what "coordination" consists of, and whether the county attorney has jurisdiction over this alleged violation of Arizona law by Winn and Horne.

"The proper procedures," Kimerer wrote in his pre-hearing statement for Horne, "would have the Attorney General's Office, not the attorney general himself, appointing a neutral party to do the investigation and prosecution. That statutory procedure was not followed in this case."

Translation? Horne should get off on a technicality, because, Kimerer argues, according to state statute, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett should have sent his probable cause letter signaling that a violation had occurred to the Attorney General's office, not to the county attorney.

Here's the way the investigation unfolded.

First, Horne ordered an investigation into an assumed mole in the AG's office, one he suspected of feeding me info on his relationship to Chenal.

The AG's investigator uncovered evidence of unrelated wrongdoing by Horne. She turned it over to the FBI.

The FBI investigated it, in part with the help of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. The FBI then turned its entire file over to the county attorney and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona choked, like it always does when faced with allegations big-time public corruption.

Per Arizona statute, the MCAO sent the investigation to Ken Bennett, and Bennett sent Monty a letter telling him that, "this office has reasonable cause to believe that Attorney General Horne and Kathleen Winn have violated [state campaign finance law]."

The SOS's letter states that the AG "declared a conflict to my office on April 16, 2012," and that pursuant to a law recently passed by the legislature, the SOS has the authority to choose counsel other than Horne, who would normally enforce campaign finance law in this instance.

So the SOS chose Monty's office as the prosecuting entity.

Kimerer is expected to file a brief this week arguing that Horne's right to due process was violated and that the county attorney unlawfully brought this action against Horne.

The MCAO will respond. And Eigenheer eventually will rule on it.

If Eigenheer finds the county attorney does have jurisdiction, the hearing will proceed, though her decision could be the basis for a later appeal by Horne and Winn.

If she finds that the MCAO does not have jurisdiction, the case would be dismissed.

"I definitely think that jurisdiction is an issue that would have to be established before we could go forward," the Eigenheer stated, adding, "I don't see the point of wasting everyone's time if it turns out there is no jurisdiction."

I know the feeling. I'm beginning to wonder why we bother to go through this hick-state Kabuki theater when it comes to addressing bald-faced corruption.

Might as well do what a Maricopa County superior court judge suggested recently and overturn all of our campaign finance laws in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United case.

I mean, listen to the recording of the December 6 hearing yourself. Eigenheer seems as if she'd be content to let the MCAO and the attorneys for Winn and Horne work the whole thing out between themselves.

"As far as discovery goes," she tells the lawyers, "if the parties can get together and resolve, specify what the issues are, stipulate to exhibits, stipulate to any allegations...any fact issues, [then] that will cut down a lot on our time...and I think will be better for everyone involved."

Corruption persists when the public allows it to exist, tolerates it, becomes complacent to it. Politicians like Horne and their lawyers assume that all they have to do is wait us out, till we move on to the next outrage, the next travesty.

The Hornes of the world emerge from the sewer with a slap on the wrist and a smile on their faces. They know they can appeal even the slap, and end up with a nudge, at best.

Shamelessness, in their world, is a virtue.

Karma will catch up to Horne in the form of an opponent willing to throw his state-financed gal-pal in voters' faces, as well as the litany of his other transgressions. And for that. we'll have to wait about a year and a half, until the GOP primary is in full swing.

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