Friday, July 31, 2020

NEW: Schweikert's $1.1M In Ethics Probe-Related Legal Fees Dwarfs $50,000 Fine; "My Greatest Sin...Thinking I Was One Of the Good Guys"

"[M]y greatest sin may be my arrogance of thinking I was one of the good guys." That was one of the confessions Rep. David Schweikert made to investigators during his long ethics probe while trying to divert responsibility to his former Chief of Staff. However, the bipartisan Ethics Committee concluded that he not only had been sticking his head in the sand, but had personally committed some of the most serious allegations.

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert's campaign contributors have paid the $1.1M in attorney's fees racked up by his campaign committee in the two-year long ethics probe that concluded today with a reprimand and a $50,000 fine. The campaign has only raised $2M during that time, which means 55 cents of every dollar raised went to the lawyers.

Schweikert (R-CD6) still owes the principal attorneys $67,664, in fact. And, during the recent pre-primary reporting period, 86 cents of every dollar raised went back out the door to that firm.

By voice vote this morning, the House adopted the bipartisan Ethics Committee's report finding 11 violations, reprimanding Schweikert and requiring the Congressman to pay a $50,000 fine. Rep. Schweikert's counsel had negotiated that agreement, and the Congressman did express some disagreements with the Investigative Subcommittee's report.

Schweikert complained that the ISC relied too heavily on testimony from his former Chief of Staff Oliver Schwab. He noted that Schwab had given reasons for the investigators to question his truthfulness. The Ethics Committee responded that the penalties against Rep. Schweikert would have been harsher if it had accepted portions of Schwab's testimony that were uncorroborated. 

Further, the Committee and the Congressman agreed that the final count was based upon David Schweikert's own inaccurate statements to the investigators. The ISC believed that those statements hindered the investigation itself.
"The ISC’s finding with respect to lack of candor, however, was not based solely on a few memory lapses, but based on numerous blanket statements that the Member has never and would never take certain actions, despite testimony and documentation from multiple witnesses to the contrary, and a failure to address substantial campaign finance reporting allegations for over a year, despite the ISC’s repeated requests in that regard."
The other agreed-upon violations were significant:
--Between 2010 and 2017, he permitted his campaign committee to extensively violate campaign finance laws. His reports were riddled with a $100,000 made-up loan and loan repayments, disbursements that did not take place, more than $140,000 in contributions that went unreported. (Counts 1-6)
--Between 2011 and 2018, he permitted Schwab to make illegal contributions to the campaign, totaling more than $270,000. Congressional staff are not permitted to spend money on the Member's campaign, sometimes even if they are reimbursed. (Count 7)
--Congressional staff were inappropriately reimbursed by the campaign committee for personal services (such as babysitting) and food for the Congressman. (Count 8)
--Between 2011 and 2017, he permitted taxpayer monies - through his Congressional office budget - to be used for campaign purposes and unofficial purposes. The inappropriate uses of staff time, Congressional office space, and office funds was in addition to compelling staff to perform campaign tasks. (Counts 9 and 10)
-- The repeated lack of candor and misstatements that hindered the investigation. (Count 11)

Of course, Arizona's Politics has extensively reported on Schweikert's campaign finance reports over the past 10 years, and has even attempted to investigate his personal loans to the campaign committee. And, a current review of Schweikert's FEC (Federal Election Commission) reports indicates that he has not yet amended those reports to properly report the violations detailed by the Ethics Committee's investigations. Interestingly, requiring those years of falsified reports to be corrected was not part of the agreement between the Committee and Schweikert. (The FEC is once again quorum-less.)


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