Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

September 8, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Debate: Candidates for State Attorney General


  • A half-hour debate featuring the candidates for State Attorney General; Tom Horne (R) and Felecia Rotellini (D).
Guests:
  • Tom Horne
  • Felecia Rotellini
Category: Vote 2010

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special edition of "Horizon.” I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate. We'll hear from candidates for the State's Attorney General's Office. As with all of Horizon's debates, this is not a formal exercise. It's an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity for give and take between candidates for one of the state's most important offices. As such, interjections and even interruptions are allowed, provided that all sides get a fair shake. We'll do our best to see that happens. The candidates for attorney general are, in alphabetical order, Tom Horne, an attorney and former State Legislator, who now serves as the State's Superintendent of Public Instruction. And Felecia Rotellini, a former prosecutor who worked in both the civil and criminal divisions of the attorney general's office. She's also a former Director of the State Banking Department. Each candidate will have one minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier, we drew numbers to see who goes first, and that honor goes to Tom Horne.

Tom Horne: We bring academic rigor to the classroom, and before becoming State Superintendent of Schools, I was a practicing lawyer for 30 years, a special assistant attorney general, a litigator, so I have more courtroom experience than almost anybody who works in the attorney general's office. If I become attorney general, I will have three priorities. The first is to fight illegal immigration. I am a supporter of S.B 1070. I will appeal the adverse ruling to the Supreme Court, if necessary. I appealed the case when Arizona was paying a million dollars a day in fines, and hopefully, win it in the United States Supreme Court. My second priority is to vigorously enforce the law, and my third priority is to create a legal environment conducive to business growth.

Ted Simons: Thank you very much. Now Felecia Rotellini has one minute for an opening statement.

Felecia Rotellini: Thanks, Ted. The voters have a clear choice between me and Tom Horne, and the best way to see what it will be like as attorney general is to look at our track record. I've prosecuted securities fraud; he's committed it. I cracked down on border crimes; he just talked about it. I am a career prosecutor who dedicated my life to protecting, and serving Arizona. He is a career politician and looking for a steppingstone to the governor's office. I have a track record of fighting for Arizona families. Mr. Horne has an abysmal record running the public schools in Arizona. When I am attorney general, I will make decisions based on one thing and one thing only, what is in your best interest. Mr. Horne will make sure his political ambition and agenda are first and foremost ahead of your interest. Please help me to be attorney general and go to my website at feleciaforarizona.com.

Tom Horne: Can I say a word? Because I'm really disappointed to see Felecia getting into the mud. I thought we would have a friendly exchange about the issues like before, and for her to accuse me of securities fraud, I never committed securities fraud. She is distorting something that happened 40 years ago.

Ted Simons: Let's get a response.

Tom Horne: Let me say --

Ted Simons: Hold on, let’s get a response to what you said.

Tom Horne: But --

Ted Simons: Tom, please.

Felecia Rotellini: We're looking at an order against Mr. Horne, and it might be 40 years old, but he has agreed he willingly violated securities laws. He lied to consumers, lied to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and as a result, he is banned for life from ever talking to a consumer about securities. That is a big deal when you're running for attorney general.

Tom Horne: Most of what she said is false, and it is a distortion of something 40 years ago. Since then, for 30 years I practiced law and am rated by my fellow lawyers as ethical, I have a raiding of AV, an "A" lawyer, "V" meaning rated very ethical every one of my years. Felecia has no rating at all, which means she's exaggerated her experience as a prosecutor and pretended she is an experienced courtroom prosecutor and she isn't because she has no rating. She did a terrible job of managing banking. We had the worse case in Arizona of bad mortgages while she was supposed to be regulating them.

Ted Simons: I need a response to you on that.

Felecia Rotellini: Go back to the SEC order. Let me set the record straight. The Attorney General's office prosecutes securities fraud, and I've gone over the very same folks as Mr. Horne here. He lied to the regulator. If you will lie to the regulator that will give and take away your license, you will lie to anyone. They found his conduct was so deceptive; he has a lifetime ban from ever talking to any consumer in any state in the United States. Now, how is he going to prosecute securities fraud when he is also in that position?

Ted Simons: A last response and I want to get to some other issues. Last response.

Tom Horne: Felecia has turned into a mudslinger and I'm very disappointed. I have 30 years rated as a highly-ethical lawyer, and I have a letter sent to her warning her what happened to Mortgages Limited, which she ignored when she was supposed to be regulating them, and a lot of people lost their life savings as a result of her ignoring that, traveling around the country going to conventions when she was supposed to be regulating mortgages.

Felecia Rotellini: The Mortgages Limited Securities Fraud is what caused them to go down. They were a mortgage broker, and they were engaging in mortgage banking. But the violations that put mortgage broker -- Mortgages Limited into bankruptcy and caused them to be in trouble was the securities side of their business.

Tom Horne: I have the letter here where she was warned and ignored it, and a lot of people lost their life savings because she ignored that and was with going around promoting herself instead of regulating mortgages.

Ted Simons: These are things I was going to try to get to before the end of the debate. Start with something as arcane as why are you running for office?

Felecia Rotellini: I want to make sure things like Mortgages Limited, don’t happen. When I was the head of the Department of Financial Institutions, I went after all the mortgage companies I could.

Tom Horne: You ignored it.

Felecia Rotellini: That happened a long time before I was in charge.

Tom Horne: No, you didn’t.

Felecia Rotellini: I was a prosecutor for the Attorney General and that office has the best ability, the best opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of Arizonans, and I've dedicated my life to protecting and serving. And the Mortgages Limited case is the perfect example of why the Attorney General needs to take a strong arm against mortgage fraud. You can do more as the Attorney General than I could ever do as a regulator.

Ted Simons: Why are you running for office?

Tom Horne: I'm running for office because we need someone to vigorously enforce the law, not ignore the violations as Felecia did when she was running the mortgages and all these people had undocumented mortgages. They had one of the worse cases in all the time she was supposed to be regulating them. I want to vigorously enforce the law, including Senate Bill 1070 to enforce illegal immigration. Felecia was opposed to that bill. Felecia did not enforce that law. I supported Senate Bill 1070, we need to enforce illegal immigration, not be tolerant of that, and I don't think we should have a point person for the Obama Administration as Attorney General. We should have somebody to stand up to the Obama Administration and stand up for Arizona when it is under attack.

Felecia Rotellini: I'm not going to let Mr. Horne hijack this debate with Senate Bill 1070. My priority is border security. Senate Bill 1070 doesn't go far enough. It doesn't stop illegal immigration. It doesn't secure our border. I will defend Senate Bill 1070, I will enforce it when I'm attorney general, but I will do more. I will go after the federal government for not doing its job, and I will go after the drug dealers and the smugglers that are bringing drugs and illegals into our neighborhoods. I have the support of the border sheriff. Mr. Horne does not, and I will work with them to clean up that area.

Ted Simons: The idea of the Attorney General's office going after drug cartels and gang cartels, the focus of the current attorney general is opposed to something like 1070, talk to us about what you would do as Attorney General. Would you focus on the same things or on something like 1070?

Tom Horne: My view is you have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes, I would focus on the border. I made a number of specific proposals, I would reopen the Douglas office closed by the Democratic Attorney General, beef up the office down to one person, form partnerships with local law enforcement agencies. Supported by the Arizona Highway Patrol Association, every day they need an attorney general to support them and they've chosen me to be that person. I would beef up the remedy section, and they indicate to me they've been cut back so far, they have to turn away good cases every day. But at the same time, at the same time I would enforce Senate Bill 1070. Felecia can't do that. She said the Attorney General would be in a pickle because he would be forced to defend that.

Felecia Rotellini: Let me explain that. You know, Tom, you're misquoting me because I was talking about Terry Goddard, who had already gone on record against Senate Bill 1070, and he was in a pickle when he then had to defend this law. I've always been on record that I would defend the law as the Attorney General. I've always been on record that I would enforce the law. I'm a prosecutor, that's what I do. I support the McCain -- Kyl plan, that is part of my border plan and I support all the efforts at the border to strengthen it. Nothing illegal should be crossing our border and that's been my position since day one.

Tom Horne: Felecia is misrepresenting her position to you. She told "Yuma Sun" that the bill would pull resources away from local law enforcement and in many ways it makes the streets less safe. She clearly indicated she was against Senate Bill 1070 and that the Attorney General would be in a pickle to have to enforce it.

Felecia Rotellini: I'm not being inconsistent with what I'm saying today. What I'm saying is, I will enforce it, I will support it, and I'm also saying it hasn't gone far enough. And I agree with everything I said in the "Yuma Sun," it doesn't go far enough.

Ted Simons: Let me make -- Cross question here. Start with you. Do you understand the fear and the anger, the trepidation, the concern, from many in the Latino community regarding 1070?

Tom Horne: I do, but I think it's important to understand that the Bill itself prohibits racial profiling, and as Attorney General, I would be committed to help educate law enforcement to avoid racial profiling. But what it does do is help us fight illegal immigration, it is a force multiplier for the border patrol. If local law enforcement enforces the law, border patrol can be where it needs to be.

Ted Simons: I need to ask -- hold on a second, now. Do you understand the frustration from those who support 1070 that the federal government is doing next to nothing and that something needs to be done, the state might as well do it?

Felecia Rotellini: Absolutely. We are ground zero. And I've been on the front lines of this issue already in 2006 and 2008 when I was Head of the Department of Financial Institution, I levied fines of $5 million against Western Union for facilitating human smuggling. I've been in the trenches. I've been to the border and I've talked to the sheriffs and local law enforcement and that's why we need to take action against the federal government for not doing their job. The border belongs to the federal government, but all of the crime that happens north of the border is the responsibility of law enforcement. And I'm here to tell you the border security is my number one priority, period, and because I'm a prosecutor and because I've worked with law enforcement, I will have the better opportunities, the better advantages to work alongside and make us stronger, make us more strategic, and make us more intellectual in the way we fight border, organized crime.

Ted Simons: You want to respond?

Tom Horne: I want to say, I think if you were hiring a lawyer to represent you, you wouldn't want a lawyer who opposed your position and said they were in a pickle to have to defend you. Felecia cannot defend Senate Bill 1070 because she was opposed to it, any more than Terry Goddard was able to. Had to hire a private attorney to do it.

Felecia Rotellini: You know when I take my oath as Attorney General, I will uphold the laws on the books and records, and that would include Senate Bill 1070 and my position has never changed. I want to talk about why I'm qualified to be Attorney General.

Ted Simons: Hold on just a second because you got into substance there. I want to get to that.

Felecia Rotellini: I do too.

Ted Simons: But I also want to talk about something before we get there, and that is in the grand scheme of things, we've got a budget problem in Arizona. And if you were Attorney General or you are Attorney General, your office will likely get hit. How do you get the most bang for the buck in the Attorney General's office?

Tom Horne: One of the proposals I started to refer to, Ted, was the proposal to beef up the civil remedies section. Many bring three times his or her salary because they're seizing assets from drug smugglers and money launderers and similar crimes, and the Democratic Attorney General's office cut back on those crimes and they've been cut back so far they have to turn away good cases on a regular basis. That's a false economy. If you beef up that section, they bring in more assets than costs to them, and it can be used for other purposes, both to fight illegal immigration, protect seniors, consumer protection and so on. So I made a specific proposal that would increase the revenues of the attorney general's office.

Felecia Rotellini: Let me first say if Mr. Horne knew what the financial remedies group really did, then he would know that the monies that come in from those forfeitures are earmarked and have to be used for law enforcement, have to be used for fighting mortgages, fighting drug dealers, fighting all of the different things in the criminal division. That's a good idea. But the civil division, consumer fraud division, yes, they've been hit. But I want to tell you it is not about the budget, it's about the culture. And I worked in that office under Grant Woods and Terry Goddard, and I know how to run that office on a shoe string. In the 13 years that I was a prosecutor in that office, I never had a case where I didn't feel I had less resources than the companies that I was going after. It's about the culture, it's about understanding you've got to put good managers in positions and let the attorneys do their job with discretion. And that's why it takes a career prosecutor to run the Attorney General's office who has the wisdom and the discretion and to recognize talent in a prosecutor.

Tom Horne: But not the trial experience, apparently. I'm a member of the group called the American Border Trial Advocates that requires you completed at least 25 trials as the lead attorney in jury trials. I don't think Felecia has anything like that kind of experience. She is not even rated in Martindale Hubbell. I have a 5.0 rating, which is an experienced, preeminent attorney, so I have the experience that Felecia doesn't have.

Felecia Rotellini: Let me talk about why I'm qualified to be Attorney General. I've been in the trenches 13 years as a prosecutor and have been a client of the Attorney General's office. I know the civil division, criminal division and what it means to be a client and to have to use assistant AGs to get the job done. No one knows that office more than I do. As a matter of fact, one of the most important things of running the Attorney General's office is to keep politics out of that office and to make sure the Attorney General is prosecuting criminals and not wasting taxpayer's money going after frivolous lawsuits and picking battles that are just politically motivated. That's what I will do. Mr. Horne, on the other hand, if you look at his record as the Superintendent of Public Instruction, look at lawsuits he's brought. Look at political motivation behind them. And look at his performance as the head of the department. And how school scores have gone down, less kids in Arizona go to college than in any state in United States.

Ted Simons: Okay. We got it. Let's get a response.

Tom Horne: The scores have gone up, above the national average in the Terra Nova Test, above average in the aptitude test. I brought academic rigor to Arizona classrooms; the kids' performance shows it. I don't know where she talked about politics because the fact of the matter is that I was a practicing lawyer for 30 years and didn't hold full time office until eight years ago, after 30 years as a practicing lawyer. So I'll stack my record up against her record any time of supposedly regulating mortgages when we had the worst period of neglect of mortgages that we've ever had, worse cases of bad mortgages that we've ever had.

Ted Simons: A response.

Felecia Rotellini: Here is an example of Mr. Horne deceiving the Voters of Arizona. The Goldwater Institute, a very conservative institute, has been challenging the Terra Nova scores for three years. The republican legislature has thrown them out and the Republican legislature has taken away Mr. Horne's ability to do scoring of students because they don't trust him. The Terra Nova scores are bogus and that has been thrown out. The ACT scores from the time Mr. Horne took over and right now have gone down.

Ted Simons: Very quickly.

Tom Horne: Totally untrue. The legislature never took away Terra Nova or anything else. It is one of the three recognized national tests, and Arizona students have performed above the national average.

Ted Simons: I don't want to get into a Superintendent of Public Instruction debate; we have that coming up later in the month. Because I think we've touched on it a little bit, I want to hear more, consumer fraud, identity theft; what are you going to do?

Tom Horne: We need more emphasis on those things and protecting seniors and other things. One time, for example, in consumer fraud, the Attorney General's office had an active unit that would go to car repair places and see if the mechanic would pretend things were wrong that weren't. They don't do that anymore under the Democratic Administration and they need resources, so I've made proposals to do more things like consumer fraud, protecting seniors, identity theft.

Felecia Rotellini: What Mr. Horne is talking about, that he doesn't know the name of, is the Elder Affairs Unit, and I'm going to resurrect that unit. I was in the Consumer Protection Section and worked with that unit. That unit will be full service. We'll make sure that all issues relating to elder abuse, threats, whether it's criminal or consumer fraud, will be addressed. I'm going to beef up mortgage fraud prosecutions. I'm going to beef up financial fraud. This is an area that I have known and worked in for 17 years. We don't need a lot of funds to beef up that enforcement, we just need some expertise and to work with the special agents and the cops, the prosecutors that I've been working with before. That's one of the best areas for my administration.

Ted Simons: Okay. And another cross-questioning kind of thing here. We've heard you described as an opportunist, that is putting it mildly, but why should voters trust someone who they might suspect is using this for political advantage or as a steppingstone in their political career as opposed to Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the state.

Tom Horne: I don't know why anyone would think that of me. They asked us to disavow this as a political steppingstone and Felecia refused to say she disavowing this as a political steppingstone. The political lawsuit she is referring to is when the federal government was fining Arizona a million dollars a day. They refused to appeal it. I appealed it as a defendant, Horne versus Flores, saved the American taxpayers $300 million. That is the kind of point person we need standing up, not a point person for the Obama Administration.

Ted Simons: Cross-question to you. Why should the voters trust someone who is new to elected office?

Felecia Rotellini: I'm uniquely qualified for that office, and I don't want to be anything other than Attorney General. Mr. Horne misquotes me again. I said on the record I wasn't sure what I would do, but I could retire when I was done with my eight years as Attorney General. I'm telling you right now I got in this race a year ago because I want to be Attorney general, and that's all I want to be. And I'll vow right now I want to be Attorney General and that's it. I am a political outsider, because like a lot of voters in Arizona, I'm sick and tired of party politics. I'm tired of the bickering; I'm tired of no problem solving. When I was in the Attorney General's office, I worked with Republicans and Democrats. When I ran the Department of Financial Institutions, we had a coalition that got loan officers licensed, and that was a bill that took republicans to get it passed. I'm a coalition builder. I'm not here to be a partisan politician.

Ted Simons: Respond, please.

Tom Horne: Well, she says she is not partisan, but when I gave my opening statement I stuck to the issue, I didn't say anything personal. She got down into the mud the way the primary opponents were down in the mud. I thought we would do better than that. Voters at home want to hear what we would do as Attorney General, they don't want to hear us throw mud at each other, Felecia, and I don't think you gained anything by throwing mud. Jay Blanchard tried that in 2002 and finally stopped doing it because people went up to him after the debate and said they resented it.

Felecia Rotellini: Very different. There is a difference between --

Tom Horne: You're a mudslinger.

Felecia Rotellini: There is a difference between mud and truth.

Ted Simons: We have to stop it there because we have closing statements to get to, which, of course, you can handle them any which way you like. Each candidate will now give a closing statement. Going in reverse order of the opening statements, we start with Felecia Rotellini.

Felecia Rotellini: Thank you. I've been a prosecutor and financial watchdog for 17 years, and over those years I took crooks and liars and cheats and criminals off the streets. There's a reason why lawmakers and the educators of Arizona don't trust Tom Horne. The Securities and Exchange Commission called him out for lying to his clients, lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and he continued that con game when he came to Arizona. When he didn't file clear and complete honest statements with the Arizona Corporation Commission about his bankruptcy, and probably the worst fraud of all that Mr. Horne has perpetrate is the bogus test scores that he still today believes were good. That's a fraud on the students of Arizona. I'm here to tell you, help me today to clean up the streets of Arizona, help me to keep a prosecutor in the Attorney General's office, tell Tom Horne he should go home with an “F” for failing Arizonans.

Ted Simons: That's one minute. Thank you very much. Next, Tom Horne, one minute.

Tom Horne: I called it mudslinging because not only is it personal and aside from the issues and dealing with something from 40 years ago, but 99% of it was false. If you check the statements, you would find out what she said was false. The issues, what Arizona needs now is an Attorney General to defend Arizona, fight illegal immigration, not a spokesperson for the Obama Administration. They've refused to protect our border, sued us when we tried to do the job, they have complained to the United Nations that we were violating human rights. The Obama Administration has gone after community colleges because they required paperwork to be sure that people that were not citizens were not illegal aliens, which is required under the law. Someone needs to stand up to the Obama Administration. The previous administration refused to do it. I will defend Arizona against the incursions from the Obama Administration. Felecia will be a point person for the Obama Administration. That is the real thing that divides us. We want to fight illegal immigration and protect Arizona.

Ted Simons: And that's one minute. Thank you, Tom. Thank you, Felecia. And thank you for watching this special edition of "Horizon." For more information about the candidates and the issues you'll be voting on, and to replay video of this and other "Horizon" debates, be sure to visit Horizon's vote 2010 web site at azpbs.org/vote2010. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons.

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