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Judge upholds campaign finance case against Attorney General Tom Horne after appeal

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PHOENIX — A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Thursday refused to throw out a finding that Attorney General Tom Horne violated campaign finance laws during his 2010 campaign.

Judge Crane McClennen's ruling is the latest loss for Horne and aide Kathleen Winn. In August, Horne lost in the Republican primary, where he was running for re-election but was beaten by Mark Brnovich.

Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk found last year that Horne and Winn broke the law by illegally coordinating spending during his campaign.

An administrative law judge disagreed and recommended the civil case be dropped in April after a hearing, but Polk then rejected the decision and reinstated the case.

Horne and Winn then appealed to the Superior Court.

Horne and Winn have denied that they coordinated spending on his campaign while Winn ran an outside group backing Horne in his election campaign against Democrat Felecia Rotellini.

"Only one neutral person in the world has listened to the testimony and reviewed the documents. That is the administrative law judge who ruled that the charges were false," Horne said in a statement Thursday night. "As I have stated all along, there was absolutely no coordination and therefore I plan to appeal this unjust ruling."

In his order, McClennen recounted evidence that Polk and her office used to build their case — the timing of phone calls between Horne and Winn in the days leading up to the November 2010 election as well as emails about the creation of an ad to attack Rotellini.

Polk also argued there was evidence that Horne tried to get Winn to raise and spend another $100,000 to benefit his campaign.

Polk ordered Horne to repay $400,000 to donors to the outside group and amend his campaign finance reports. He and Winn also could face up to $1.2 million in fines, three times the amount Polk says was improperly spent.

In his ruling, McClennen concluded that "there was substantial evidence to support the action of the agency, and the action of the agency was not contrary to law, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was not an abuse of discretion."

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