After a two-year investigation, the House fined Representative David Schweikert $ 50,000 and a reprimand for violating 11 ethical rules.
“Representative Schweikert did not act in a manner that reflected the honor of the House,” according to the House ethics report released Thursday, which exhibited a surprisingly large amount of misconduct over a period of seven years.
Of course, the words “credible” and Congress don’t exactly go hand in hand. Still, this thing is going to leave a mark.
The good news for Schweikert: unlike a certain congressman from Arizona asking female staff to have babies, Schweikert was simply asking staff members to babysit his daughter.
The bad news: The House Ethics report criticizes Schweikert for showing a “lack of frankness” and found, among other things, that he had “systematically” violated campaign finance laws, used campaign funds to reimburse staff for child care, meals, dry cleaning. and misappropriated travel and office funds.
Democrats were already eyeing this seat
And the very bad news for the five-term congressman: Democrats were already looking at his congressional seat from Northeast Valley like a hungry dog watches a burger. Now I imagine he’s looking more like a thick, juicy T-bone that’s ripe for the taking.
“If a seat in Congress is threatened in this cycle, it’s his,” Chuck Coughlin, longtime Republican campaign consultant, told me.
Schweikert doesn’t seem too worried. He blames his former chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, for most of the violations cited in the report, saying his mistake was to trust a guy who was not just his right-hand man but a close friend.
“You take every election seriously,” Schweikert told me. “I have to apologize for where I failed to do my supervisory job. I have to explain it. But he has been polled several times and that does not move voters. “
Fortunately for him, few of them are likely to read the 103-page report, which found evidence of violations from 2010 to 2017. While Schweikert attributes his problems to poor accounting and a spendthrift chief of staff, the ethics committee disagreed.
Most damaging: the bogus loan from Schweikert
“Some of the more serious allegations had nothing to do with the chief of staff or the compliance cabinet and instead arose out of the direct behavior of Representative Schweikert and his wife,” the report said.
By far the most damaging part of the report concerns a $ 100,000 loan reported by Schweikert in his 2012 re-election campaign.
Conclusion: it was bogus. Schweikert never actually made the loan. He just pointed it out, making his campaign look more financially sound than it was. Then he reported five fictitious payments totaling $ 100,000 to his campaign advisor in order to balance the books.
Schweikert told the committee that it was all the result of “unintentional mistakes” by his wife, who was the campaign’s accountant, and that when he learned of the problems in early 2013, he called in a company of compliance to resume the books.
The committee, however, did not buy it.
“The weight of evidence does not support Representative Schweikert’s claim that these fabrications were the result of ‘inadvertent’ errors,” the report said. Ms. Schweikert, who was responsible for the errors, has training in accounting and bookkeeping and had access to campaign bank statements. A cursory examination of these records easily shows that the transactions did not take place in the past. In addition, the false disbursements, spread over five odd payments to a frequent campaign vendor, matched the exact amount missing on the campaign receipts due to the bogus loan.
“These disbursements gave the illusion that the $ 100,000 loan had been used by Schweikert’s campaign committee for Congress, effectively balancing the reported campaign cash flow and preventing a campaign fund shortfall that might have signaled to others that the loan had never been made in the first place. “
A “systematic effort of false reporting”?
This is where it really starts to feel: The report states that Schweikert’s wife then tried to get the campaign to pay off the bogus $ 100,000 loan in early 2013.
“The Schweikerts never informed Treasurer D that the $ 100,000 loan had not been made,” the report said. “Instead, Ms Schweikert appears to have sought to transfer money from previous campaign committees to the Schweikert’s personal bank accounts as debt repayment.
The campaign never repaid the Schweikerts for the bogus loan, the report says, and in the fall of 2013, Schweikert filed FEC documents indicating that the loan had been “forgiven”.
“The ISC (Iinvestigative Subcommittee) was unable to determine precisely what motivated the Schweikerts to abandon their efforts to be paid by the campaign for the fictitious debt,” the report said.
Schweikert told me that the couple never asked for the loan to be repaid, adding categorically: “Out of all that I am, this has not happened.”
“There is nowhere out there where my wife and I or anyone around us other than our former chief of staff have won anything,” he said. “We didn’t make any money, we didn’t take trips, we didn’t buy meals.
This does not apply to longtime Republican Nathan Sproul, who says Schweikert should step down.
“The ethics committee details an apparent systematic effort to falsely report a personal loan that it never made, and then tried to get that ‘loan’ back from its donors,” Sproul told me. “This is easily disputed with a bank statement. If he cannot publicly produce that bank statement, his donors have every right to be furious. He was condemned by a bipartisan committee of his peers. In my opinion, he should resign immediately.
So how much do voters care?
Do not seek the resignation of Schweikert. But he will have to fight to hang on to that reliable Republican seat.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted this race and is hoping to replace Schweikert with Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency physician who lost twice to Debbie Lesko in 2018 before setting his sights on the neighboring district of Scottsdale.
Tipirneni faces three other Democrats – including Anita Malik who is making her second stint at Schweikert – in Tuesday’s primary.
Schweikert’s campaign consultant Chris Baker says he’s not worried.
“David continues to have tremendous support in the district,” he said. “We are confident that this support remains strong and that David will win again in November.”
Other Republican consultants, meanwhile, say participation in Tuesday’s Democratic primary should say a lot about Schweikert’s vulnerability. So far, Republicans have won 45% of the vote in Maricopa County, up from 50% in 2018. Democrats, meanwhile, have taken nearly 43%, down from 38% two years ago.
If you’re a Republican, you say uh-oh.
Then there is the money. Tipirneni had $ 1.6 million in the bank at the end of June while Schweikert had less than $ 240,000.
“It could be a perfect storm and David is unable in this Trump-style environment to go out and talk to anyone,” Coughlin said. “If a seat of Congress is threatened in this cycle, it is hers. “
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