The reprehensible behavior of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, as revealed in thousands of pages of FBI investigative documents and several media reports, has led to a smattering of calls from state media and a few Democrats for his resignation.
So far nary a peep has been heard from the state’s powerful Republican leaders about Horne’s childish, unethical and likely illegal behavior as he desperately tried to get elected Attorney General in 2010 and even more desperately tried to keep the lid on an extramarital affair in 2011.
And the state’s voters are apparently yawning over the allegations because, according to a spokesman for Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs, there have been no calls for Horne’s impeachment – not from Biggs’ constituents nor from any member of the Legislature. Biggs also hasn’t heard from Speaker of the House Andy Tobin about whether the coming legislative session will be interrupted by impeachment proceedings (Tobin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment). Impeachment charges are brought in the House first then move to the Senate for trial.
Horne’s behavior has been so dishonorable that waiting for him to do the honorable thing and resign seems futile. He should either be recalled or impeached. Recall will take at least a year and an enormous amount of money. Impeachment can happen now and would cost far less.
Horne’s sins became public primarily through the reporting of Phoenix New Times columnist Stephen Lemons. He was the first to reveal that Horne may have been having an affair with Carmen Chenal, a lawyer who worked for Horne when he was the state Superintendent of Public Instruction and who Horne also hired to be an Assistant Attorney General after his election in 2010.
According to the FBI report, Horne launched an internal investigation to ferret out who in the AG’s office was leaking information to Lemons. That investigation is what started Horne’s dominoes tumbling.
Lemons wrote a story this week that detailed even more outrageous behavior by Horne over the past year. Some of it merely illuminated allegations that have been well-reported but some of it also revealed incredibly childish and paranoid behavior by Horne.
• Horne has been civilly charged by the Maricopa County Attorney of illegally coordinating his campaign for AG with an independent campaign committee and faces a fine of up to $1 million.
• Horne was having an extramarital affair with Chenal, who is a subordinate employee in the AG’s office.
• He engaged in a ridiculous subterfuge to have an afternoon dalliance with Chenal involving disguises and switched vehicles and in so doing, backed into another car in a parking a lot and has since been charged with hit and run.
• He was being investigated by the FBI for suborning perjury and obstruction of justice. FBI agents suspected him of encouraging witnesses in the campaign coordination investigation to lie to the FBI about what they knew about it. The FBI declined to file charges, however, and turned its findings over to the county attorney.
• Horne apparently had direct or indirect knowledge of a secretly listened-to phone call and sought to have that information used in the leak investigation but when told the matter would have to be investigated as a crime under the state’s wiretapping laws he dropped it. In other words, the state’s top prosecutor knew about an occurrence of an illegal wiretap and chose to do nothing about it.
• Though he’s ultimately empowered to enforce the state’s government openness laws, he ordered AG records to be illegally withheld or improperly redacted. Plus, he sought to either illegally destroy or reclassify the leak investigation record to keep if from becoming public.
• As part of the witch hunt to find out who in his office was talking to Lemons, he ordered a search of state employee email and phone records for Lemons’ email and phone number.
• He recruited a group of people to write glowing comments on New Times stories about him and to attack the veracity of Lemons’ reporting. Horne even wrote anonymous comments on the articles under the moniker “Arizonatruth” in which he lied about whether some of the supporting comments about him were being written by AG officials.
Horne has denied wrongdoing in much of the above and the hit and run charge and the campaign coordination allegations are making their way through the court system. Legislative leaders may be waiting for the outcomes of those legal proceedings before considering whether Horne should be impeached.
But much of his other behavior clearly shows that he’s committed some measure of “high crimes, misdemeanors or malfeasance” while in office. The failure to investigate an allegation of wiretapping and the attempted destruction of public records, not to mention the affair with a subordinate, should be enough evidence that Horne is unfit for office and should be removed.
Horne’s actions are far worse than anything impeached former Gov. Ev Mecham ever did. And they’re certainly more egregious than anything Independent Redistricting Commission Chairwoman Colleen Mathis was accused of doing, yet House and Senate Republicans rammed through an impeachment of her last year in a couple of days (which was later overturned by the state Supreme Court).
Horne should be impeached without further delay.