GOP Rep. David Schweikert on Thursday was formally reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for misusing official funds after a two-year probe.
The bipartisan ethics panel found that Schweikert violated 11 different rules and standards, which also included campaign finance violations, pressuring staff into working on his campaign and a “;lack of candor and due diligence”; throughout the investigation.
"Representative Schweikert did not act in a manner that reflected creditably on the House," according to a report from the committee, detailing the extensive misconduct.
The Arizona Republican has agreed to pay the fine and admitted to the violations, which stemmed from dealings with a former top aide, Oliver Schwab.
“;We are pleased the Committee has issued their report and we can move forward from this chapter,”; a spokesperson for Schweikert wrote in a statement that did not address the substance of the findings. “;As noted in the review, all issues have been resolved and Congressman Schweikert will continue working hard for Arizona”;s 6th District.”;
The rebuke from the Ethics panel ends a lengthy –; and at times, contentious –; investigation into Schweikert”;s payments to a consulting firm owned by his longtime chief of staff. The committee had created a special investigative subpanel to conduct the Schweikert probe and detailed the misconduct in a 13-page report.
Over two years, that subcommittee interviewed 18 people, including former and current congressional and campaign staff. It issued four subpoenas and said Schweikert, at times, gave "untruthful testimony" and "self-serving statements" that went beyond far "minor memory lapses" or slight differences from others’ testimony.
"Efforts like the ones Representative Schweikert undertook to delay and impede the ISC”;s investigation were not only highly detrimental to the Committee”;s work and reputation of the House, they were themselves sanctionable misconduct," the report reads.
Among the biggest findings from the Ethics panel is that Schkweirt had paid over $270,000 to a firm whose sole employee is Schwab over seven years, violating the limit on outside income for senior congressional aides. Schwab left his congressional job in 2018 after seven years. That same year, the aide also repaid the campaign more than $50,000.
The Ethics panel did consider a House-level sanction of censure, one of the most severe kinds of reprimand against a member. But the group ultimately sought a lesser sanction, “;due in large part to the congressman”;s willingness to accept responsibility and agreement to pay a substantial monetary fine."
The investigation into Schweikert and Schwab stemmed from a complaint filed with Congress”; ethics watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics, after reports in the Washington Examiner.
Schweikert had previously insisted the issue was one of inaccurate paperwork, rather than an ethics violation.
"This is purely clerical," Schweikert said in 2018. "We buy coffee, it’s on [Schwab’s] credit card and we reimburse him. And when they did the reimbursements, they marked it as income instead of reimbursements. So know we have to unwind all of those."
The ethics penalty could be a major problem for Schweikert”;s reelection, whose suburban Phoenix seat had already been eyed by Democrats going into November.
Donald Trump won the district by 10 points in 2016, but operatives in both parties concede he could be vulnerable due to his dismal fundraising and ethics woes. And House Democrats have fielded a well-funded challenger to take on Schweikert.
His most formidable Democratic opponent is Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room physician who ran in a 2018 special election in a neighboring district.
She has to beat three other Democrats in the Aug. 4 primary, but Tipirneni has by far the most resources, with $1.6 million in the bank by the end of June. Schweikert had less than $240,000.
Ally Mutnick contributed to this report.
Read more: politico.com