Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert reached a deal announced Thursday to end a longstanding House Ethics Committee investigation by admitting to 11 rules violations, accepting a reprimand, and agreeing to pay a $50,000 fine.
The committee found “substantial evidence” of violations by the five-term congressman stretching from 2010 into 2018. Those violations include undisclosed loans and campaign contributions; misuse of campaign funds for personal purposes; improper spending by his office; and an environment where office staffers were pressured to do political work.
The deal caps an investigation that has cast a shadow over Schweikert’s political career since late 2017, when allegations of misspending first surfaced.
In a statement, Grace White, a spokeswoman for Schweikert, said he wanted to move ahead and didn't address the substantive issues in the probe.
"We are pleased the Committee has issued their report and we can move forward from this chapter. As noted in the review, all issues have been resolved and Congressman Schweikert will continue working hard for Arizona’s 6th District," she said.
In his response to the Ethics Committee, Schweikert acknowledged there were problems.
“I bear ultimate responsibility for ensuring that my congressional office and my campaign adhere to both the letter and spirit of the wide array of laws, rules, and regulations that govern our important work,” he told the committee.
But Schweikert stalled in cooperating with the committee’s probe and was untruthful at times, the panel noted.
“Schweikert’s testimony lacked candor at times. In taking issue with the (committee’s) questioning strategy, Representative Schweikert attempts to shift his responsibility to provide truthful and candid testimony,” according to the report that accompanied Schweikert’s deal with the committee.
For nearly two years, Schweikert maintained the matter under investigation was little more than a bookkeeping dispute.
After the separate Office of Congressional Ethics, which helps screen potential cases for the Ethics Committee, revealed its investigative findings against Schweikert's longtime former chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, in June 2019, Schweikert political adviser Chris Baker shifted tone. He acknowledged serious problems had existed and said Schweikert’s trust in Schwab “was grossly misplaced.”
The committee's new report comes as Schweikert has struggled to mount a financially viable reelection campaign while Democrats have four candidates vying to challenge him in November.
One of them, Hiral Tipirneni, has $1 million more than Schweikert’s cash-strapped campaign.
Entering July, only one House incumbent, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, had a larger cash deficit than Schweikert would if Tipirneni wins Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Report undercuts image
The report deals another blow to Schweikert, whose Scottsdale-based congressional district is historically safe ground for the GOP. But the Republican-leaning district is the kind of suburban, relatively well-educated location that has drifted toward Democrats, especially in the Trump era.
Schweikert has struggled to raise money throughout the current campaign.
For Schweikert, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, the allegations of misspending hit directly at the heart of his political persona as a budget and finance expert.
Ethics case snowballed
The Schweikert probe began with the Office of Congressional Ethics, which investigates potential cases and refers them to the Ethics Committee. That investigation amassed a troubling paper trail involving Schwab that implicated Schweikert, too.
Unlike OCE, the Ethics Committee has subpoena power and was able to burrow in even deeper.
In August 2018, OCE’s board found it had “substantial reason” to believe Schweikert may have received improper gifts, omitted key details from his required personal and campaign financial disclosures and paid staff out of line for the work they actually did.
[More at link]: