PHOENIX - Though much of the focus on the FBI's investigation into Attorney General Tom Horne is centered on the claims made in a whistleblower complaint filed against him by a former friend, political ally and a current assistant AG, it's becoming increasingly clear that the federal probe goes far beyond those allegations.
Just look at what we know: The FBI was investigating Horne in January – a month before Don Dybus filed his complaint – and had requested documents from the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, a revelation that was first published by The Arizona Republic. Sources close to the investigation have told the Arizona Capitol Times that the Secretary of State's Office passed along Dybus' complaint shortly after he filed it in mid-February.
There's also the matter of the allegations that Horne colluded with an independent committee during his 2010 campaign against Democrat Felicia Rotellini. If he did so – and there's only circumstantial evidence backing up the allegations, at least so far – then it would certainly be a violation of election laws requiring candidates and outside groups not coordinate their activities. But that law is an Arizona law, and the FBI or the U.S. Department of Justice wouldn't have any jurisdiction to prosecute Horne for breaking it.
Though Dybus alleged that Horne broke a federal law by promising a high-ranking position in the AG's office to Kathleen Winn, the woman who headed up the independent committee, one former federal prosecutor said last week that the FBI and the DOJ wouldn't waste their time on Horne if they didn't think he did more than that. In an interview Friday with my colleague Jeremy Duda (who broke the Horne/FBI story on Monday), former U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton said the federal law that Dybus accused Horne of violating is only a misdemeanor, which wouldn't prompt the FBI to open an investigation. Charlton said that means the feds think Horne may have committed a much more serious crime.
What could that be? It's impossible to say until the FBI makes a public statement, which it may never do. (In typical law enforcement fashion, the agency won't even confirm it is investigating Horne.) One thing that federal investigators and prosecutors have keyed in on in recent years, however, is public corruption. What little we do know about the investigation so far is that the FBI has requested information on Horne's finances – both for his campaign and in his personal life.