Arizona AG Loses Bid for Campaign Investigation

     PHOENIX (CN) - The investigation of alleged campaign violations by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne will proceed despite Horne's claims of bias, a judge ruled.
     Horne sued the Maricopa County Attorney's Office late last month, arguing that the investigation should be handed over to another agency because County Attorney Bill Montgomery is a vocal supporter of Horne's Republican primary opponent, Mark Brnovich.
     The attorney general later sought a restraining order to stop Montgomery and his office from investigating allegations that Horne's employees used state time to seek campaign donations for his re-election bid.
     Superior Court Judge Mark Brain denied Horne's request for a temporary restraining order Monday, calling the lawsuit's chances "modest at best."
     Montgomery has said that he is screened from the investigation, but Horne claimed in his lawsuit that employees would feel his influence nonetheless.
     "Plaintiff Horne's notion that Mr. Montgomery's office will do his unspoken bidding is entirely unconvincing as a basis to disqualify the entire office from a mere investigation and grand jury proceeding," Brain wrote.
     "The court will not indulge a presumption that the investigators and employees the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will act unethically based on a mere allegation that they know what Mr. Montgomery wants, nor that a grand jury will ignore its responsibility in evaluating any potential charges," the four-page decision states.
     The two Republicans have sparred before. Horne sued Montgomery's office in 2013 after Montgomery tried to institute a civil enforcement action against Horne for allegedly receiving about $500,000 in illegal campaign contributions. The case went to trial and an administrative law judge ruled for Horne.
     Horne suggested in his latest complaint that the investigation is politically motivated.
     "If there is a charge made before the primary election, regardless of whether the evidence for it is credible or not, this can help elect Montgomery's protégé, Brnovich, and help defeat Montgomery's political adversary, Horne," the attorney general claimed.
     Nixing this argument, Brain found it "apparent that Mr. Montgomery does not think much of plaintiff Horne."
     "But one could presumably disqualify a number of investigating agencies if that argument were good enough," the judge added.
     "Public policy certainly does not favor shielding candidates from investigations during elections; if a candidate broke the law, he should received his just reward," he continued. "Moreover, if there is, in fact probable cause to indict plaintiff Horne, then the public has every right to know it so that voters can factor it into their decisions on how to cast their ballots."