Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced today that he's turning over some of the investigation into the Fiesta Bowl fiasco to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office because a conflict of interest exists between his office and elected officials who allegedly accepted -- and failed to report -- gifts and tickets to sporting events.
In his announcement, Horne also says his office is hanging on to most of the investigation -- even investigations into his campaign cronies who ponied up cash to help get him elected.
"Over 1,600 people contributed to my campaign. They are expected to follow the law like everyone else, and there is no reason that my office cannot undertake a full, comprehensive, and fair investigation of former contributors," Horne says. "I would not hesitate to prosecute them if the evidence showed a crime had been committed, or to absolve them if it showed that no crime had been committed."
Horne notes that the conflict only exists with elected officials, whom he considers "clients" of his office.
"In the primary election last year, I criticized my opponent [former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas] for prosecuting clients. Later, a bar investigation of that opponent found that prosecuting a client is a violation of ethical rule 1.7(a)(1)," Horne says. "These ethical
requirements mandate me to transfer such matters to another agency."
Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny has been hounding Horne to turn over the investigation to another agency since just days after news of the scandal broke.
"This scandal reveals the deep and pervasive Republican culture of corruption in Arizona," Cherny said days after news of the scandal broke. "Given the partisan nature of this scheme, Attorney General Horne's conflict of interest is too great to give Arizonans the confidence that justice will be served and the mess in theRepublican Party will be cleaned up."
Now, Cherny says Horne only turning over part of the investigation "falls short."
"For Attorney General Horne to claim that prominent lobbyists Chuck Coughlin and Gary Husk are just names on a long list of contributors to his campaign strains believability," Cherny says. "They are two of the most powerful men in state government and in Republican party politics."
Cherny goes on to call for Horne to turn over the entire investigation.
"Only a credible investigation can determine what happened in Fiestagate," he says. "The people of Arizona will have little confidence that the charging and other decisions in this investigation have been done without political influence as long as the investigation is in the hands of Attorney General Horne or other ambitious Republican politicians.
"I repeat my call for Attorney General Horne to transfer this entire investigation into the hands of a respected, independent third party."