Wednesday, April 17, 2019

NEW: Schweikert Campaign UNDERWATER As Legal Expenses Surpass $583,000 Due To Ethics Probe; Former Chief Of Staff No Longer Being Investigated

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert (R-CD6) has seen his campaign committee owe more money than it has on hand, as its legal expenses climbed to $583,000 as a result of a year-long ethics investigation. The apparent origin of the trouble - Oliver Schwab, his former Chief of Staff - is no longer under investigation.

The investigation continues, and the Arizona Republic's Ronald Hansen reported on today's release of the initial referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics to the House Ethics Committee. Most of that information was already in the public sphere; however, it does indicate that the referral for the alleged infractions was unanimous.

The Committee - made up of Republican and Democratic Representatives - then voted unanimously in June 2018 to establish an Investigative SubCommittee ("ISC"). It was between the April referral and the June ISC that Friends of David Schweikert began paying five different law firms.

One law firm (Holland & Knight) consulted with several individuals affiliated with the campaign or his Congressional office, and was paid $34,375 between May and December 2018. Another law firm (Venable) appears to be representing Legislative Director Matthew Tully, and has been paid $17,459. (Last payment was March 25.)

Berke Farah has been representing Schwab. And, even though the Ethics Committee lost jurisdiction over Schwab when he resigned on July 9, 2019, the legal expenses are still accruing. Schweikert's committee has paid Berke Farah $71,633 through March 25.

It is not clear whether the remaining two law firms are representing the Congressman, his campaign committee, or other individuals or entities. Wiley Rein has billed $22,727 since last summer, and is still owed all of that save $405.

The well-known campaign finance law firm of Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky has been the most involved. They were first paid by the campaign committee in June 2018, and have received $230,554; the last payment was on January 25. However, they are owed $206,906, and most of that ($118,049) was INCURRED during the first three months of 2019.

Schweikert's campaign committee was officially underwater on March 31, 2019, with a reported $240,564 in the bank and debts owing to Holtzman Vogel plus others of $251,614. This, as two Democrats who ran in the Phoenix area in 2018 have announced their plans to unseat Schweikert.

And, as Politico noted, the $167,925 in contributions reported for the first quarter is "anemic" for a longtime Congressman who holds a seat on the powerful Ways & Means Committee (and is facing a credible election challenge).

It is important to note that - although the initial referral was released today by the Ethics Committee - the investigation is continuing. And, the legal expenses would indicate that it has become more intense, despite the Congressman's repeated insistence that the "errors" have been resolved.

KPNX's Brahm Resnik spoke with the Congressman today and reports that Schweikert says "he did nothing wrong & doesn’t plan to resign." (Video on tonight's newscast.) Resnik also shared this video from one year ago.




And, while the Ethics Committee indicated in December that it is investigating whether Schweikert "may have omitted required information from his annual House financial disclosure statements and Federal Election Commission candidate committee reports", Arizona's Politics can report that neither Schweikert nor his campaign committee has filed amended reports since then.

Initial referral, released today:



History of Ethics Committee investigation:





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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Trump Signs Colorado River DCP, Tweets "Big Deal For Arizona", Praises McSally (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

Trump Signs Colorado River DCP, Tweets "Big Deal For Arizona", Praises McSally
5:45pm: President Donald Trump today signed the Congressional approval of the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan. As reported previously, Arizona lawmakers were in the forefront of getting the measure passed quickly in both the House and the Senate.

Trump singled out Senator Martha McSally, however, praising her for "getting it done", and calling it "a big deal for Arizona."  Of course, it is also important for the other states in the lower basin, but it is not wrong to focus on the importance to Arizona - especially since it is the effected state that Trump and Republicans are most interested in for the 2020 elections.






Trump Vetos Resolution To End Support For Saudi Arabia In Yemen War; 3 AZ Republicans Had Voted "Aye"
5:30pm: President Trump tonight vetoed a Congressional resolution calling for an end of support for the Saudi Arabia-led effort in the Yemen war. Three Arizona Republicans had joined all Democrats and 20 other Republicans in passing the resolution this past month.

Reps. David Schweikert (CD6), Andy Biggs (CD5) and Paul Gosar (CD4) joined Arizona's 5 House Democrats in passing it 247-175 earlier this month. Arizona's Senators had split last month, but it passed with seven Republicans joining in the rebuke of the Trump Administration support.

Here is the President's veto message:
And, here is the text of the vetoed Resolution:





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Friday, April 12, 2019

TODAY: Oral Argument On Case To Move Up Election To Fill McCain Senate Seat (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

Attorneys will argue in U.S District Court this afternoon about whether the Arizona law permitting Governor Doug Ducey to control the late-Senator John McCain's seat until November 2020.

Arizona's Poltics previously reported on the constitutional challenge to the vacancy law. At that point, Sen. Jon Kyl was serving at the Governor's request. Kyl then resigned, permitting Ducey to appoint Martha McSally to the seat until a special election would be held in 2020 to fill the last two years.

Further details available at our (NEW) sister site, Arizona's Law.

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NEW: Sinema Snubs (All of Her) Democratic Colleagues, Declining To Co-Sponsor Bill Expanding Child Tax Credit and EITC

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema this week became the only Democratic Senator to decline to co-sponsor legislation to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The bill was introduced Wednesday by Senators Sherrod Brown (OH), Michael Bennet (CO) and Richard Durbin (IL). With much fanfare, they announced that they "lead 46 Democrats in introducing the "Working Families Tax Relief Act." Well, the Senate has 47 Democrats (including the two independents who caucus with them).

Each of the 46 are listed, including frequent aisle-crossers like Joe Manchin (WV) and Doug Jones (AL). The only one missing is Arizona's Kyrsten Sinema, who is up for re-election in... 2024.

Although the text of the bill is not yet publicly available on the website, the Democratic Senators (sans Sinema) note that their bill would make the Child Tax Credit increased in 2017 by the Republicans' tax bill refundable, so that low-income families would benefit. It would also create a "Young Child Tax Credit" and allow low-income families to receive a $500 advance on their Earned Income Tax Credit in emergency situations.

Of course, without any apparent effort to secure Republican support, the measure does not appear destined for approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Arizona's Politics made several efforts to get a comment from the Senator before publishing this article, and held it for publication overnight in case of response.

Yesterday, Arizona's Politics reported on Sinema's vote to join Republicans (and 3 Democrats) to confirm David Bernhardt as the new Interior Secretary. That article has been updated to include her explanation as to why she voted to confirm.


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

BREAKING: Sinema Joins Republicans In Confirming Bernhardt As Secretary of the Interior (ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS)

(Updated to include Sinema's explanation for voting to support.)
12:50pm: Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema joined every Republican and three other Democrats* in confirming David Bernhardt to become the new Secretary of the Interior. The final vote was 56-41.

Interestingly, a dark money liberal group called the Western Values Project spent $200,000 on TV ads urging Arizona's Republican Senator Martha McSally to vote against Bernhardt. 

McSally issued a statement this afternoon celebrating the vote: "We have spoken on issues affecting our state and I know he will work with me to improve forest health, implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan, and be a good partner for Arizona in protecting our public lands for generations to come. I look forward to working with Secretary Bernhardt and showing him around Arizona.”

Sinema indicated that she, too, met with Bernhardt: “After meeting with Mr. Bernhardt and carefully considering his nomination, I am confident he is professionally qualified, believes in the mission of the Interior Department, and will faithfully uphold the law.”




*Sen. King is an Independent, but caucuses with the Democrats.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

UPDATE: Arizona's Congressional Delegation Leads Both Houses This Afternoon In Approving Colorado River DCP; Heads To President's Desk

UPDATE, 3:40pm: The Senate has now approved the DCP, as well. Both Houses passed the identical bill today on voice votes, so the next action will be for President Trump to sign the approval into law.

The Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan ("DCP") is front and center this evening in both Houses of Congress. And, Arizona's Congressional delegation is again in the forefront of the action. At approximately 6pm (EDT), the House approved the bill to approve the DCP by an uncontested voice vote.

As reported previously by Arizona's Politics, Arizona is the only state where the entire Congressional delegation sponsored/co-sponsored the bills to approve the DCP last week. And, Arizona is again center stage this afternoon.

The House is considering the bill, and Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) is leading the unopposed "debate". Reps. Tom O'Halleran (D-CD1), David Schweikert (R-CD6) and Greg Stanton (D-CD9) have already spoken, and more may still do so.

On the Senate side, Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) is to speak about the bill this afternoon, and to ask for unanimous consent. However, the Senate is not conducting any votes today, and consideration will likely be scheduled for later this week.

Although Arizona's legislators dominated the day, it was Utah's Rob Bishop (R-UT) who had the best line. The Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee (to Chair Grijalva) praised the cooperation among the Colorado River Basin states, and then told his House colleagues that if this bill was not to pass, "Utah's going to keep all the water and the rest of you can suck under. (laughter)"

Here is a copy of the bill. (The House and Senate versions are identical.)




Arizona's Politics will post the relevant video when it becomes available later today.



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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

ARIZONA'S POLITICAL SHORTS: Reps. Biggs and Gosar Team With AOC and Ilhan Omar In Letter To President!!!

Reps. Biggs and Gosar Team With AOC and Ilhan Omar In Letter To President!!!
4:30pm: In what might seem to be the shocker of the century, Arizona Freedom Caucus Reps. Andy Biggs (R-CD5) and Paul Gosar, DDS (R-CD4) have co-signed a letter with Green New Deal Dems Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to President Donald Trump. The bipartisan and bicameral group of 12 praises the President for his stated start of withdrawing U.S. troops from the war-torn nation of Syria.

The letter, led by Senator Rand Paul and Rep. Ro Khanna, is an obvious attempt to bolster the President as he faces criticism from many in both parties.

Here is the letter:



OFF-TOPIC: Join our Diamondbacks Season Ticket Group
4:00pm: Opening Day is here! We've been part of a Diamondbacks season ticket group for 20 years now, and a couple of our members had life changes that prompted them to stop participating. We have two seats that are probably the best value in the ballpark. One share is 16 games over the 6-month season, and although we assign the games randomly, everyone is usually pretty accomodating for switches. If you are interested, email me, at Paul @ ArizonasPolitics.com (no spaces), and I'll send you more details.

Clever. Very Clever. AZ GOP Reaches Out To Trump Supporters - Become A "Trump Committeeman"
3:45pm: Kelli Ward, the Chair of the Arizona GOP, is looking to recruit more Trump supporters in as Precinct Committemen. In an effort to reach out, they are offering a personalized 2020 Trump jersey (sketch below) and a re-brand of the statutory party office to "Trump Committeeman".


The email went out late last night with the subject line: "Sign Up Today to Become a Trump Committeeman!" Ward called it "the official way to become a part of the Trump-Republican team in Arizona! The top listed benefit (besides the jersey) is "access to (your) precinct's voter data".*

The AZ GOP even secured the URL "TrumpCommitteeman.com" for the recruiting effort. Lest some existing GOP PCs worry that they will be forced to switch from "PC" to "TC", the fine print at the bottom of the website notes that it is voluntary and that non-Trump supporters can still become PCs.

Nonetheless, given the rancorous intra-party disputes surrounding PCs and their varying allegiances, this effort by the current leadership of the AZ GOP is bound to prompt some reactions. AZGOP Communications Director Zach Henry tells Arizona's Politics that it "aligns with Chairman Ward's stated priority of filling every open PC spot in the state."

He adds that "nothing fires up the base like President Trump and we're going to work overtime to make sure he wins Arizona in 2020. Trump wins, we all win."

*Arizona's Politics recently raised concerns about campaign volunteers and PCs becoming targets after reporting on new tactics to access voter databases.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

BREAKING: Federal Grand Jury Has Subpoenaed APS For Info and Communications Re: Its 2014 Dark Money Election Activities

Not only is the Arizona Corporation Commission looking through the pile of documents delivered by APS about its secret spending on 2014 elections, but a federal grand jury is, as well. This new piece of information could be critical to understanding the real reason why APS suddenly changed its long-standing tune and delivered the information to regulators.

Arizona Public Service Co. - the state's largest electric utility - finally publicly admitted on Friday night that it had spent $10.7M to elect favorable Corporation Commissioners; most of that had gone to dark money organizations, where the public was unable to see that APS had contributed the money.

The Arizona Republic's Ryan Randazzo did a great job reporting all of the newly-visible angles on a Friday night.

The fact that a federal grand jury had subpoenaed similar documents from APS's parent company, Pinnacle West, was recently disclosed* to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The grand jury is looking at the 2014 races for Secretary of State and the Corporation Commission. APS indicates that it is "cooperating fully" with the subpoenas requesting "records involving certain Pinnacle West officers and employees, including the Company's Chief Executive Officer, as well as communications between Pinnacle West personnel and a former ACC Commissioner."

The CEO of Pinn West is Donald Brandt. APS would not confirm to Arizona's Politics this afternoon that the grand jury subpoenas have yet been responded to. Instead, spokesperson Suzanne Trevino sent a copy of the letter sent to the Corporation Commission indicating that the voluntary disclosure to them was "in the spirit of putting behind us any further debate regarding political spending, and with the hope that we can focus on the future to further the energy and economic goals of the state." (Signed by VP of Regulation Barbara Lockwood.)

Last year, a mistrial was declared in a bribery trial that included a former chairman of the Corporation Commission (Gary Pierce), his wife, a lobbyist and the head of Johnson Utilities. It was reported at the time that the underlying conduct had arisen during a "much larger investigation" by the FBI into the Corporation Commission. This new revelation about the grand jury would appear to be another part of that "much larger investigation." The Pierces' son, Justin Pierce, was running for Arizona Secretary of State in 2014, and lost in the primary election.

Arizona's Politics has reported extensively on the political efforts by APS, and its use of hiding the source of funds. We have utilized a scale dubbed the #50ShadesOfDarkMoney (primarily as a result of that 2014 campaign, which was awash in it). In 2016, we reported on the IRS filings of America Encore - a dark money outfit run by Arizona's Sean Noble (that had become nationally known for its work with the Koch brothers' money network).

When that report is combined with the new disclosures from APS, it is now clear that there was a convoluted web of contributions, transfers - and, probably re-transfers - that involved APS, Noble's operation, the Arizona Free Entrerprise Club, former Governor Ducey Chief of Staff Kirk Adams and others. It is also clear that some of the new disclosures may slightly contradict APS's previous public statements to the Arizona Republic and more clarity is still needed.

*Clarify, 5:20pm: APS has disclosed the grand jury subpoenas earlier. They just re-disclosed it in February, and would not respond to Arizona's Politics' questions about whether they concurrently sent the information about their 2014 political activities to the ACC and the grand jury. If we receive that information, we will update the article as warranted.

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