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House Panel Finds Arizona Congressman Violated 11 Ethics Rules

2020-07-31 02:09:45

The House Ethics Committee said on Thursday that it had ordered Representative David Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, to pay a $50,000 fine and face a reprimand by the House after finding that he violated 11 House ethics rules.

The committee said Mr. Schweikert had agreed to the penalty as part of an agreement to end a two-year investigation that found “substantial reason to believe” that he violated House rules, the Code of Ethics for Government Service, federal laws and other standards.

The panel cited Mr. Schweikert for campaign finance violations and errors in reporting by his campaign committees; the misuse of his congressional allowance; pressuring official staff members to perform campaign work; and his “lack of candor and due diligence” during the investigation.

House investigators found that Mr. Schweikert’s campaign had violated campaign finance laws by accepting more than $270,000 from his then-chief of staff. The former chief of staff also testified that he was pressured to raise money for the congressman’s campaign, a committee report said.

The investigation also found that, between 2011 and 2018, at least four members of Mr. Schweikert’s congressional staff paid for personal items or expenses for Mr. Schweikert, including food and babysitting services, and were then reimbursed for those costs by Mr. Schweikert’s campaign.

Between January 2011 and November 2017, Mr. Schweikert’s official resources — including his office funds, staff time and congressional office space — were also improperly used for unofficial and campaign purposes, the committee said in a report.

And the Ethics Committee said that Mr. Schweikert “made vague or misleading statements” to its Investigative Subcommittee, or ISC, that allowed him to “evade the statute of limitations for the most egregious violations of campaign finance laws.”

“Efforts like the ones Representative Schweikert undertook to delay and impede the ISC’s investigation were not only highly detrimental to the Committee’s work and reputation of the House, they were themselves sanctionable misconduct,” the committee said in the report.

Grace White, a spokeswoman for the congressman, released a statement that did not directly address the panel’s findings. Mr. Schweikert, who was first elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010, is seeking re-election to a sixth term in November.

“We are pleased the committee has issued their report and we can move forward from this chapter,” the statement said. “As noted in the review, all issues have been resolved and Congressman Schweikert will continue working hard for Arizona’s 6th District.”

Mr. Schweikert, 58, serves on the Ways and Means Committee and has been active as a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. In 2012, he defeated Representative Ben Quayle, a son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, in a fiercely fought Republican primary in a newly drawn congressional district.

The House Ethics Committee started its investigation in 2018 after it received a number of allegations involving Mr. Schweikert’s chief of staff at the time, Richard Oliver Schwab, including reports that Mr. Schwab may have misused or authorized the misuse of House resources.

During its investigation, the committee interviewed 18 people, issued four subpoenas and received 200,000 pages of documents. Mr. Schweiker also voluntarily answered questions under oath, the panel said.

The investigation found that between January 2011 and July 2018, Mr. Schwab spent more than $270,000 from his personal funds on behalf of Mr. Schweikert’s campaign, in violation of campaign finance laws that prohibit House employees from contributing to their bosses’ campaigns.

Mr. Schweikert’s campaign then reimbursed Mr. Schwab through various means, including by issuing checks to Mr. Schwab’s private consulting firm, committee investigators wrote in a report.

The investigation also found that the Schweikert for Congress campaign reported in January 2012 that Mr. Schweikert had lent it $100,000 of his personal funds. However, no such loan was actually made, the investigators said.

Mr. Schweikert’s campaign then misreported $100,000 in disbursements to cover up the misreported loan and to allow his campaign to adjust its bank accounts at the end of 2012, the investigation found.

“Representative Schweikert has attempted to cast himself as an unknowing participant or victim in response to many of these allegations and sought to lay much of the blame at the feet of Mr. Schwab and the compliance professionals he trusted to oversee his campaign committees,” the investigators said in a report.

The investigators, however, wrote that they were “not swayed by Representative Schweikert’s attempts to portray himself as the victim of rogue staffers and incompetent compliance professionals.”

The ethical violations could become a problem for Mr. Schweikert’s re-election campaign, according to Kim Fridkin, a professor of political science at Arizona State University. Polls have shown that President Trump could be a drag on some Republican candidates, as moderate suburban voters and seniors have soured on his conduct.

Mr. Schweikert “could potentially be vulnerable, especially given the national trends and the trend in Arizona that could affect lower-ballot races,” Professor Fridkin said. “Anything that would make voters reconsider their party vote could change his prospects.”

Mr. Schweikert represents a traditionally Republican district that runs from the northern edge of Scottsdale into a number of conservative suburbs. They include Paradise Valley, which was home to the 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. President Trump won the district by 10 points in 2016.

Four Democrats are running in an Aug. 4 primary in hopes of winning the seat in November. The best funded among them is Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room doctor, who lost a 2018 special election in Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District.

Dr. Tipirneni wasted no time pouncing on the committee’s findings on Thursday, writing on Twitter that Mr. Schweikert had “violated his oath, disrespected us, abused his power, and broken our trust.”


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