PHOENIX — The top aide to Attorney General Tom Horne has selected two attorneys who have donated to Horne to investigate whether Horne and others in the office have been campaigning for re-election using taxpayer time and resources.
Eric Bistrow chose John Kaites, himself a former Republican candidate for attorney general, and David Derickson, a former judge, to head the internal probe to see whether Horne or any others named in a complaint by a former employee broke the law. The inquiry also extends to Sarah Beattie, the former worker who filed the complaint against Horne in the first place.
That complaint already has resulted in the Citizens Clean Elections Commission launching its own probe into Beattie’s allegations she and others, including Horne, were conducting campaign activities within the Attorney General’s Office on West Washington Street during normal business hours.
Officials at the Secretary of State’s Office are reviewing the same allegations to see if they want their own probe.
Campaign finance records show that Kaites helped host a fundraiser for Horne last year. And Derickson contributed $300 to Horne shortly after he first took office in 2010.
But Tom Ryan, Beattie’s attorney, said the problem is deeper than that.
He said the attorneys at their law firm, Ridenour, Hienton & Lewis, contributed a total of $6,000 to Horne. And that, he said, suggests the internal inquiry will be little more than a predetermined whitewash.
But Horne press aide Stephanie Grisham defended the decision to investigate and the choice of the two lead attorneys.
“Bistrow did it,” she said, insisting Bistrow, who was in private practice with Horne before his election in 2010, “doesn’t know who contributed to Tom.”
She disputed Ryan’s contention that past political support of Horne will taint the inquiry.
“I think just because someone contributed a few hundred dollars to a campaign or hosted something doesn’t mean they’re going to abandon their ethics or their professional standards.”
The authorization to Kaites and Derickson gives them permission to spend up to $50,000 without further approval.
Kaites and Derickson have said they intend to hire an investigator and a specialist in information technology.
The latter person could prove crucial in determining, through computer records and other metadata, exactly when and where certain campaign documents were produced. Beattie has said work was done during office hours.
Ryan said he and his client are not going to cooperate with the internal probe, and not only because he questions whether the outcome is predetermined.
He said Horne, in responding to Beattie’s complaint to the Clean Elections Commission and the Secretary of State’s Office, called Beattie a liar, a thief, a former drug user and said she could not be trusted.
“We will politely tell them to pound sand,” he said.
Grisham an internal probe is necessary even though there are other outside investigations in the works because the Attorney General’s Office always conducts an investigation when there are allegations of wrongdoing by a staffer.
She said the only difference here is that the subjects are top officials at the agency, which is why the outside inquiry.