House Votes to Reprimand GOP Lawmaker for Ethics Violations

WASHINGTON (CN) — The House of Representatives on Friday issued a formal reprimand of Arizona Republican David Schweikert, who admitted a day before to 11 violations of congressional and campaign finance rules.

“One of our most basic obligations as members of Congress is to adhere to the principle that public office is a public trust,” Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat and chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said on the chamber floor. “To uphold that trust and to maintain civic confidence in the integrity of this body, we as members have bound ourselves by certain standards of official conduct.”

On Thursday, Deutch’s committee released its findings from an ethics investigation into Schweikert. The violations include instances of failing to disclose some $305,000 in campaign committee loans as well as $140,000 in campaign contributions between July 2010 and December 2017.

Schweikert agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and admitted to all 11 violations Thursday.

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. (Courthouse News photo/Jack Rodgers)

In addition to the mishandling of campaign funds, the committee’s report says the congressman of 10 years pressured staff to handle some domestic chores and other activities. It references testimony from Schweikert’s former campaign manager, Richard “Oliver” Schwab, who resigned last year.

“Between 2011 and 2018, at least four members of Representative Schweikert’s congressional staff paid for personal items for Representative Schweikert, including food and babysitting services and were then reimbursed for those items by Representative Schweikert’s campaign,” the report states.

Schweikert said nothing about the matter on the House floor Friday, but members of his party, including the ethics committee’s ranking Republican, Kenny Marchant of Texas, said the matter was serious. Marchant said the House’s admonishing of its members was “not a duty that we take lightly.” Lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution reprimanding Schweikert by a voice vote.

Republican Representative John Katko of New York said the investigation made him reflect on his early days in Congress, recalling when he was approached by former Speaker of the House John Boehner while overlooking the House floor. Boehner told Katko he would serve as an investigator into ethical violations in Congress due to his federal prosecutorial experience.

“And as he walked away, I thought about two things. I thought, ‘I hope it never happens,’ that they need my services, and regardless the honor it was that he tapped me,” Katko said. “And the second thing was about the privilege it is to be in this House.”

Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat and chair of the committee’s investigative team, noted the reprimand of a member of Congress reflected on the entire body, not just Schweikert. He lauded the work of the investigative committee, which included Republicans Bill Flores and Katko, along with Democrat Jamie Raskin.

“Whether one takes an oath of office as a politician, a police officer, or a public official, we are duty bound to hold ourselves to the highest standards of conduct and serve as role models for our nation,” Phillips said.

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

In a June 27 letter to the ethics committee’s leaders, Schweikert argued there were “unfounded speculative statements” in a draft of the report, saying they would “be proven false or misleading if subjected to scrutiny of a full adjudicatory process.”

Nevertheless, Schweikert wrote he would agree to settling the matter as the investigation revealed actions by staff “that amounted to a devastating breach” in professional and personal trust.

“While I may not agree with many of the details contained in the Report and [statement of alleged violations], I accept the [investigative subcommittee’s] conclusion that I fell short in fulfilling my own responsibilities by not adequately supervising my staff and others working on my behalf,” he wrote.

Schweikert will run in an unopposed primary election for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District next week. But he could face a tough race against whichever Democrat is picked to challenge him in November.

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