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AG Tom Horne seeks campaign finance settlement

PHOENIX -- Lawyers for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne have asked an administrative law judge hearing his campaign finance violation case to hold a settlement conference before the case is heard next month.

Horne and aide Kathleen Winn are accused of illegally coordinating spending in his 2010 election while she ran an independent committee called Business Leaders for Arizona. They deny those allegations.

The case was brought in October by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and is being heard by a judge from the Arizona Office of Administrative hearings.

Polk determined that the pair violated state campaign finance rules and ordered Horne to return nearly $400,000 to donors and amend his campaign finance reports. She also is seeking civil penalties of three times the amount.

Horne on Wednesday called the settlement request routine.

``I was a litigator for 30 years, and so I always believe you settle cases if you can. And if you can't, then you have to try them,'' he told The Associated Press.

Horne declined to discuss the case further.

Winn had not filed for a settlement conference as of Wednesday afternoon.

Administrative law Judge Tammy L. Eigenheer has scheduled a three-day hearing for next month to hear evidence in the case and the defense.

The request for a settlement comes weeks after lawyers for Horne and Winn failed to revive a lawsuit seeking to have the state's limits on political contributions thrown out as unconstitutionally low. They hoped getting the limits thrown out would sidetrack the campaign finance case.

Horne, a Republican, is the state's top law enforcement officer. He defeated Democrat Felecia Rotellini, a former prosecutor and bank regulator, by approximately 63,000 votes out of a total of 1.6 million ballots cast in the 2010 general election for attorney general.

Horne is seeking a second term as attorney general but faces a GOP challenger in the September primary, Mark Brnovich. Rotellini also is running again.

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