Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne responds to allegations that he violated campaign laws while running for office in 2010.
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Attorney General Tom Horne is disputing allegations that his 2010 campaign violated state and federal election laws. Horne said today at a press conference that the allegations are based on "No direct evidence." In February prosecutor Don Dybus filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's office accusing his boss of illegally collaborating with an independent expenditure committee that raised money to pay for attack ads against Tom Horne's opponent. Dybus claims after Horne was sworn into office the leader of the group was hired as payback for her fund raising efforts. It's been reported that the Federal authorities are investigating these allegations. Here now with his side of the story is Attorney General Tom Horne. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Horizon."
Tom Horne: Good to be here. I want to correct one thing. It's not I'm saying it wasn't any direct evidence. The big news today is he admitted his charges were not based on any direct evidence.
Ted Simons: Let's start, have you been contacted by the FBI on these allegations?
Tom Horne: No, I have not.
Ted Simons: County attorney's office?
Tom Horne: No.
Ted Simons: Are you aware the FBI is --
Tom Horne: Nobody has contacted me.
Ted Simons: The allegation you were involved in an independent expenditure committee that ran attack ads against your opponent, were you involved with this committee?
Tom Horne: I was not. There was no coordination the charge that Don Dybus made was made when he knew he was about to be fired and he knew if he made an accusation it makes it harder to fire him because he can claim it's retaliation and the big news today was, he was quoted in the yellow sheet published by the Capitol Times as saying that the charge that he made was not based on any direct evidence. It was pure speculation, he said, rather than on inferences he made, was what he said. And he had to admit that because he was -- people raise the questions, you were the first one to raise the question was, if he was doing this out of ethical considerations, why didn't he do it at the time? Why did he wait a year and a half until he was on the verge of being fired? And his response to that was he doesn't know until late last year, more than a year after the campaign that Kathleen Winn was running the independent campaign. If he didn't know until a year after the campaign she was running the campaign how the heck would he ever have any information to show we were coordinating when we didn't even know she was the person running the campaign? So his response to that was, it wasn't based on any direct evidence, it was just made on inferences he made a year and a half later. So the whole thing was completely baseless.
Ted Simons: It may be baseless the way you see it but the feds are investigating and the way they see it might be different. I want to get to some of the things they might be looking at. Again, you had absolutely no contact with a group that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to attack your Democratic opponent.
Tom Horne: There was no coordination between me and the independent campaign. I was very careful about that. And the lady who ran the independent campaign was also very careful about it. She retained counsel to advise her. Something ironic about this she very scrupulously made all her reports and all required disclosures at the Simon time there was an independent campaign against me on behalf of Felicia Rotellini, an administrative judge has found after a hearing that campaign deliberately violated Arizona campaign law, that they didn't file, they didn't even file, the basic requirement, didn't make the required disclosures. There's a finding by an administrative law judge and the newspapers don't want to bring about -- write about that. But here's a claim made by somebody who commits he had no direct evidence, and I'm being smeared on the front page of the newspaper.
Ted Simons: Obviously, the story regarding the Rotellini campaign is a story and will get to more of that in a second. But right now the story is on you. You were on the front cover of the "Arizona Republic." This group apparently report lead raised $115,000 from your brother-in-law.
Tom Horne: Yeah.
Ted Simons: True?
Tom Horne: Yes, yes. What happened there was, the lady who ran the independent campaign, her name is Kathleen Winn, was active in my campaign during the primary. The law treats the primary and the general as two separate elections. After the primary she said, Tom, I'm leaving your campaign because I am going to do an independent campaign. And all of my campaign workers will testify, if necessary, that she never showed up after that. She was gone after that. She met my sister at a victory party out of the primary campaign. My sister gave her her phone number, said, which actually said if there's anything I can do to help my little brother, let me know. She called her. I didn't know she was doing that at the time. I found out later but she did that on her own.
Ted Simons: $115,000 raised from your brother-in-law, donated to an independent committee that winds up running hundreds of thousands of dollars of ads against your Democratic opponent and again you are saying you had no contact, no collaboration, no nothing with this group.
Tom Horne: There was no collaboration, that's not -- we were very careful that there was no collaboration between the two campaigns and the person charging that there was admitting that he didn't know for a year after the campaign who even ran the campaign so how could he have any evidence?
Ted Simons: The FBI will be looking at, again, there are reports your campaign was low on cash when some of this loan moan from your brother-in-law was infused into the campaign.
Tom Horne: Ted, the irony is the campaign limits don't apply to family members so if I had known this was happening, I would have said, don't give it to the independent campaign, give to it my campaign. I would rather have money I can control in my own campaign. But I didn't know that she was raising money from my sister.
Ted Simons: Another allegation is that you rewarded the woman who campaigned independent expenditure campaign committee, I should say, rewarded the leader of that group with a job, $98,000 a year job there at the Attorney General's office.
Tom Horne: Same amount that the person under Terry Goddard was making.
Ted Simons: I don't think they are suggesting you gave her a raise. Suggesting you hired her in the first place as payback.
Tom Horne: It's very common for public officials to hire people who they got to know during campaigns as long as they are competent for the job, which she certainly is. The question was, was there a promise made of a job? Dybus alleged that I promised her a job which was untrue. And to prove that, I pointed out that she wasn't the first choice for the job. I had made the offer for the job to a woman named Kim Owens who thought about it for a week and decide not to. Kathleen wasn't in the first group of people hired in the transition. That was originally we were trying to get Kim Owens to do it and she was the second choice. In this yellow sheet interview, Don Dybus said he didn't believe it was a red herring, continuum Owens didn't get the first job. Owens was quoted as saying, Owens today supported that claim telling our reporter that she turned down the job shortly after the election because she preferred to stay in the private sector, and learned several weeks later that Winn was wired. Owens said she steered clear of Dybus during the campaign. "His personality was uncomfortable to me, he has a very vulgar mouth, to be honest." She supported the fact, Kim Owens supported the fact she was the first one to get the offer. If I promised a job to somebody they would have been the first choice. I obviously did not make a promise of the job to her.
Ted Simons: But she did get the job and she was involved with your campaign. She raised money that's being questioned by some and looked at as far as we know by the FBI. There is that question of whether or not there is payback involved here.
Tom Horne: That's ridiculous, Ted. Every elected official, every statewide elected official has people employed by him that were active in his campaign. That's very common. I never made a promise. There's no evidence I made a problem. I disproved that I made the problem by showing that the first offer was made to somebody else. He went on an interview and said that's a red herring, that's not true. Kim Owens confirmed she had gotten the first offer.
Ted Simons: You mentioned Don Dybus as being a disgruntled employee and he was going to be fired. He said, quoted in the East Valley Tribune, saying he heard he was going to get fired for 12 months, he heard it once a month. Why didn't you just fire the guy?
Tom Horne: We first hired him as a criminal prosecutor. He was not working up to standard. My philosophy if someone is not working in one section give them a chance in another section. That's the more humane thing. It's happened to me where I moved someone to a different section and they do fine in a different section. So we moved him to consumer protection. He didn't work up to standard in consumer protection. We moved him one last chance to civil rights. He wasn't performing to standard in civil rights so he was quoted in this article in the yellow sheet publish by the Capitol Times saying the following. "Though Collins did tell him I may be fired, Dybus said it was actually, my chief deputy, and James Keppel, the criminal division chief who resigned last week who were trying to get rid of him." He knew he was about to be fired.
Ted Simons: Why do you any does it make sense that an employee would take such drastic steps going public against the Attorney General of Arizona, with these claims and these allegations, just so he could be protected by whistle blower? I mean that seems awfully drastic. I think most folks would say, fire me, and I am going to come back at you with a lawsuit.
Tom Horne: Well, the way to be able to come back with a lawsuit is, if you acquire what they call whistle blower status. In fact, I know lawyers in this field who say when someone comes and says I am afraid to be fired, do a protective act which means accusing something of sometimes. Sometimes it's accusing someone of sexual harassment or whatever. You make an accusation and if you get fired it looks likes retaliation. It's a tactic and, in fact, Sharon Collins who is the manager of the Tucson office, asked him, why did you make this allegation? He said, she's prepared to testify he said to her, I was afraid -- I knew Rick was about to fire me. He is the chief deputy and I was afraid of lose my health insurance.
Ted Simons: So after he made he's allegations should he not have invoked whistle blower status?
Tom Horne: It was his tactic.
Ted Simons: I understand that. Again, I am trying to figure out why someone would go to those lengths --
Tom Horne: Ted, due to an insight, you were the first 2001 have the insight which is if you think something was done wrong why do you wait a year and a half to say it.
Ted Simons: Yeah. I'm trying to get your side of this.
Tom Horne: Right. As a result of that, he has admitted that he had no direct information that led him to make this accusation. He said a year and a half later, I made some speculations or he calls them inferences but he has no information to support the accusation he made. He made up the accusation.
Ted Simons: I got you.
Tom Horne: I've been smeared on these newspapers on an accusation that was made up because he wanted to protect his job.
Ted Simons: The last question is, this was a strong supporter. He worked on your campaign. This was a guy that was in your camp for quite a while.
Tom Horne: Right.
Ted Simons: What happened?
Tom Horne: His work wasn't up to standard, Ted. This is, everybody in my office knows, this is something very strict with me. Whether or not you are political supporter or not, you got to work up to standard as a lawyer in my office. I let go of another very strong supporter last November, which I hated to do, but his work wasn't up to standard. I tried to give Don every chance. We moved him to three different sections. His work was not up to standard in any of those sections and I am not going to let fact someone was a political supporter cover the fact that you must do good work to stay in this office.
Ted Simons: Last question. I lied about that being the last one. This is the last one.
Tom Horne: Don't forget to ask me about Felicia Rotellini.
Ted Simons: We are talking about you.
Tom Horne: But --
Ted Simons: Well --
Tom Horne: It's relevant.
Ted Simons: It's relevant but we don't have time to kind of go on to that tangent. I want to ask you about James Keppel and why he resigned abruptly and does have this something to do this?
Tom Horne: We issued a statement and that's all we can say as far as Keppel goes so that gives me time to just make this point, Ted. That is that the irony is, that the person who ran the independent campaign on my, that supported me, lived up to all the filing requirements, all the disclosure requirements and administrative law judge found in favor of Felicia Rotellini deliberately broke those laws. That should be the story rather than --
Ted Simons: Well, and that could be a story but right now the story is you and we appreciate you coming here.
Tom Horne: The important news is he himself at his own words admitted his accusation was not based on any direct evidence.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.
Tom Horne : Arizona Attorney General