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Rep. Schweikert sanctioned in rare action on House floor

Chris Marquette, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The House on Friday formally reprimanded Arizona Republican Rep. David Schweikert for permitting his office to misuse taxpayer dollars, violating campaign finance reporting requirements, and several other violations of federal law and House rules, a rare sanction of an individual member by his colleagues.

The resolution passed the House by voice vote, the first time a member has been reprimanded on the floor since 2012, when California Democrat Laura Richardson was sanctioned.

"It is unacceptable for us, as public office holders, not to think about our ethical obligations," House Ethics Chairman Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, said on the floor.

Schweikert was not censured, a more serious sanction, because he formally accepted responsibility for the 11 misconduct violations and agreed to pay a $50,000 fine to the U.S. Treasury. This happened despite the Ethics Committee's investigative subcommittee finding that certain parts of Schweikert's testimony "lacked credibility."

House Ethics Committee rules call for a reprimand in the case of "serious violations," censure for "more serious violations," and expulsion for the "most serious violations."

Had Schweikert not accepted the deal with the Ethics Committee, he would have endured a public hearing.

Between January 2011 and July 2018, Schweikert's former chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, spent more than $270,000 in impermissible expenditures for Schweikert's campaign, and at least three other staffers made similar expenditures totaling less than $500, the Ethics Committee found in its report.

Schwab resigned in 2018. Among his transgressions was that he spent more than $6,000 from Schweikert's Members' Representational Allowance -- which is only to be used to support members in their official duties -- on a 2015 trip to Arizona during Super Bowl XLIX.

The House Administration Committee requires members to certify that their MRA funds are appropriately spent, a responsibility Schweikert abdicated.

 

The Ethics Committee found Schweikert "failed to take reasonable steps to ensure his campaign committees operated in compliance with applicable laws and standards of conduct, including Federal Election Commission Act (FECA) reporting requirements."

The panel also found that Schweikert had used campaign money for personal use and pressured his staff to engage in campaign work.

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips, who led the investigative subcommittee inquiry, said in floor remarks Friday that there was no joy in reprimanding a colleague.

"For a transgression by one of us is a stain on all of us," he said.

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