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Horne's Attorneys Ask Judge To Halt Clean Elections Investigation

Tom Horne
(Photo courtesy of the Office of Arizona Attorney General)
Tom Horne

Lawyers for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne tried to convince a judge that the Clean Elections Commission shouldn't be allowed to investigate charges of improper campaign contributions.

A former employee in the Attorney General's office has accused Horne of assigning his staff to illegally work on his re-election effort on state time. Several agencies are investigating the claim, including the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

Horne asked a judge to put a stop to that investigation. At a hearing on Monday, the two sides debated whether the commission can investigate Horne even though he's not running as a Clean Elections candidate. Attorney Joe Kanefield said both existing law and an earlier court decision outline the commission's responsibilities.

"One is public financing of candidates who choose to participate," Kanefield said. "Two is their voter education responsibilities, such as sponsoring debates, publishing the candidate handbook. And the third was enforcing the laws, including the contribution limits."

And Kanefield argued it doesn't matter that Horne is not using any public money in his re-election effort. But attorney Timothy LaSota argues the commission has no legal authority over candidates running with private money. LaSota said the commission's legal arguments go beyond what voters intended when they created the Clean Elections system.

"It was never intended to bring in a whole separate regulatory body on campaign finance matters that have nothing to do with the Clean Elections Commission at all, have nothing to do with public funding," LaSota said.

The judge who heard the arguments said she expects to rule quickly.

News Politics
Nick Blumberg was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2014.