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Court agrees former Arizona AG Tom Horne broke campaign-finance law

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — A case once thought to be finished has come back to life, as an Arizona appeals court determined that former state Attorney General Tom Horne broke civil campaign finance law while in office.

The court’s opinion Tuesday echoed that of Yavapai County prosecutors, who argued in 2014 that Horne and a campaign volunteer, Kathleen Winn, improperly worked together on ads that went after his Democratic opponent, Felecia Rotellini.

Horne was running for office in 2010 and won. Two years later, Horne’s officer was under federal investigation for alleged campaign finance violations. But by 2014 an administrative law judge said Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk hadn’t presented enough evidence against Horne to go forward.

The Arizona Court of Appeals found otherwise this week.

The court specified that emails and phone calls about a commercial to be produced by a group connected to Winn between her and Brian Murray (of the group producing the ad) and between Winn and Horne supported Polk’s evidence.

Ties among the Horne, Winn and an independent expenditure group, BLA, which paid for the ads, were laid out in the opinion. Winn was a campaign volunteer who had previously established an independent expenditure committee.

She left the group to volunteer for Horne. In fall of 2010, Winn left her volunteer duties to return to BLA, which then hired the company to make the commercial.

Winn later went to work in Horne’s office.

Polk has ordered Horne to repay $400,000 to donors and file amended campaign finance reports. She also could order Horne and Winn to pay up to $1.2 million in fines, three times the amount Polk said was improperly spent.

Prosecutors said a series of phone calls and emails in the weeks leading up to the election showed that Horne was having material input on the campaign ads and strategy that Winn was overseeing.

Horne and Winn acknowledged the calls and emails but said they were either speaking about an unrelated real estate deal or engaged in legal campaign fundraising.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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