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Investigations into Arizona AG Tom Horne begins

PHOENIX -- An ex-judge and a former state lawmaker were asked Friday to act as independent outside counsel and conduct an internal investigation of the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

In a separate probe, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission decided Thursday that Attorney General Tom Horne will face a full investigation into allegations he used his executive staff to work on his re-election campaign in violation of election laws.

Former Horne staffer Sarah Beattie filed an election-law complaint in May with the commission and the secretary of state's office. Beattie said she was essentially hired to work on Horne's campaign and that others in Horne's office also did substantial work on his campaign. She provided emails and other evidence she said backed her claim.

Horne has vigorously denied the allegations, although he acknowledged in a formal response that some staff may have done a small amount of work on state time.

He has attacked Beattie's credibility, saying she has a history of lashing out at former employers and failed to disclose previous drug use and work as a stripper.

Horne, a Republican, is seeking a second term as the state's top law enforcement official. He already is appealing a finding by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk that he and a top aide illegally coordinated spending by an outside group supporting his 2010 election bid.

A spokeswoman for Horne announced Friday that the AG's Office has hired for ex-state legislator John Kaites, former judge David Derickson plus a private investigator and a computer forensics expert to conduct a probe into Beattie's allegations.

"While typically an internal investigation would be handled by people within the Attorney General's Office, in this case the allegations are directed at people in the Executive Office, including the Attorney General," spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. "For this reason, the Attorney General's Office has chosen to engage an outside law firm to ensure an unbiased, impartial investigation occurs."

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission has authorized Executive Director Tom Collins to launch its probe and use his power to seek additional evidence beyond that supplied by Beattie in her complaint.

If Collins determines Horne violated the law, he could return to the full commission and seek enforcement action. That could include civil penalties and, at worst, the removal of Horne from office.

The investigation could take a couple of months to complete, bringing it close to the Aug. 26 primary, Collins said.

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