House votes to sanction Schweikert over ethics violations

In a rare public reprimand of one of their own, the House voted Friday to formally sanction Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertDemocrat Hiral Tipirneni wins Ariz. primary to challenge Rep. David Schweikert Ethics watchdog finds 'substantial' evidence of improper spending by Rep. Sanford Bishop House votes to sanction Schweikert over ethics violations MORE (R-Ariz.) for violating campaign finance rules and improperly using official resources for his reelection efforts.

The measure, adopted by voice vote, imposes a $50,000 fine on Schweikert that must be paid to the U.S. Treasury by the end of October.

Schweikert negotiated the terms of his reprimand with the House Ethics Committee after a two-year investigation. He agreed to admit to all eleven counts of misconduct outlined by the committee.

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House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchHouse votes to sanction Schweikert over ethics violations House Ethics panel recommends ,000 fine for Rep. Schweikert's campaign finance violations Florida county official apologizes for social media post invoking Hitler  MORE (D-Fla.) said the subcommittee tasked with investigating Schweikert considered recommending that the full chamber vote to censure the Arizona Republican for his conduct, but ultimately opted for the fine and public reprimand.

"Ultimately, the bipartisan subcommittee agreed to this negotiated sanction of a monetary fine and public reprimand by his colleagues in large part because of Representative Schweikert's willingness to accept responsibility for his own misconduct," Deutch said on the House floor.

"If members take just one lesson from this case, let it be this: It is unacceptable for us public office holders not to think about our ethical obligations," Deutch said.

The panel heard testimony from 18 witnesses and reviewed more than 200,000 pages of documents.

Schweikert, who has served in the House since 2011, did not speak during floor debate on the measure to sanction him on Friday. But a Schweikert spokesperson said Thursday that "we are pleased the committee has issued their report and we can move forward from this chapter."

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The investigative report, released on Thursday, concluded that Schweikert violated campaign finance laws, misused taxpayer funds for unofficial purposes, pressured congressional office staff to do campaign work and displayed a "lack of candor during the investigation."

Investigators found that between 2010 and 2017, Schweikert's campaign committees erroneously disclosed or failed to report at least $305,000 in loans or loan repayments, did not report at least $25,000 in campaign spending, did not report more than $140,000 in campaign contributions, and falsely reported making payments totaling $100,000.

Schweikert's campaign falsely reported that he had loaned the campaign the $100,000 and then reported it had been spent, "which served to adjust the campaign’s reported cash on hand that was propped up by the fictitious loan."

The report from the House Ethics Committee said that at least four of Schweikert's congressional aides paid for his personal items, including food and babysitting, that the campaign later reimbursed. It also found that Schweikert's now-former chief of staff made purchases worth over $270,000 that were reimbursed by the campaign, despite rules stating that congressional staff can't make contributions to the campaigns of lawmakers for whom they work.

"Representative Schweikert knew or should have known that [his chief of staff] made substantial purchases on behalf of his campaign, but did not prevent the practice," the report stated.

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The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent entity that reviews allegations of misconduct and refers them to the House Ethics Committee for further investigation, first flagged allegations in 2018 that Schweikert may have misused House resources and failed to comply with campaign finance rules.

The rare public reprimand for a lawmaker's ethics violations is a blow for Schweikert, who represents a Maricopa County-area district that Democrats are targeting in the November elections.

The nonpartisan election handicapper the Cook Political Report currently rates Schweikert's seat as "lean Republican."