The U.S. House Ethics Committee acknowledged Wednesday that its unanimous decision to investigate Rep. David Schweikert last year had “substantial reason” to believe he improperly billed campaign expenses to his congressional office.
The committee released on Wednesday a one-page report made a year ago that sparked the investigation of Schweikert’s office and campaign finances that continues to this day.
It is a fresh reminder of old information regarding possible misspending by the five-term Arizona Republican.
Schweikert was not immediately available for comment Wednesday. In December, his office said: “We look forward to providing any information necessary to the committee to resolve this matter.”
He has often cast the matter as a bookkeeping issue, though investigators have taken more than 18 months to sort out the money trail.
“Schweikert’s campaign committees may have accepted contributions from an individual
who was employed in Rep. Schweikert’s congressional office, in the form of individual outlays that later were reimbursed by the campaign committees,” the committee’s 2018 report said. That could flout House rules and federal law, the committee noted.
The bipartisan committee voted 6-0 at the time to examine whether Schweikert authorized improper payments from his congressional funds to his former chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, and to look at whether Schweikert failed to properly monitor his campaign committee.
The information was released Wednesday because the Ethics subcommittee looking into the allegations against Schweikert had not ended its investigation a year after beginning the probe.
In December, that subcommittee widened its investigation of Schweikert to include other aspects only hinted at in its limited statements, such as whether Schweikert had omitted required information from his annual financial-disclosure statements and campaign finance reports.
The Schweikert probe comes as Democrats have set their sights on his Scottsdale-based 6th Congressional District, in part because of his ethics case and also because that party thinks voters are increasingly open to political change.
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It is rare for the Ethics Committee to create a panel to investigate a House member, and for such a panel to expand its scope in the middle of an investigation.
How did we get here?
Schwab’s income and spending habits came into question in a 2017 report in the Washington Examiner. In April 2018, he repaid Schweikert’s campaign more than $50,000 for what was described as “erroneous reimbursement.”
Laurie Coe, a Scottsdale woman active in Democratic politics, requested in early 2018 an ethics probe of Schweikert involving Schwab’s spending and income, noting that he had reported receiving more outside money than congressional rules permit.
The spending questions largely revolve around Chartwell Associates, a consulting firm operated by Schwab. The firm took in more than $133,000 in consulting fees since 2014 and billed another $57,000 in “consulting/travel” fees to the campaign, according to Coe’s complaint to the Ethics Committee.
Schwab told the Examiner that Chartwell is a one-man shop.
“Anytime you see Chartwell, that’s Oliver Schwab,” he told the Examiner.
The consulting fees, when combined with his annual income working for Schweikert, exceeded caps on outside income, the complaint claims.
Schwab’s salary was $168,000 in 2016, according to Coe’s complaint to the Ethics Committee.
“Such behavior on the part of Rep. Schweikert and Mr. Schwab represents a pattern of flagrant violations of federal law and House Rules, which undermines the integrity of the House,” the complaint said.
In May 2018, Schwab told The Republic that the allegations have been distorted and asked for patience as the matter was investigated.
Shortly afterward, he resigned from Schweikert’s office.
Any misspending could be a problem for Schweikert, a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. He also is believed to be considering a gubernatorial run in 2022, something that could be hampered by mismanagement allegations.
Schweikert downplayed the issue last year, saying he welcomed the scrutiny.
“It’s almost wonderful because this is the process we needed so we could present,” he said at the time. “There’s really no mechanism to say, ‘Look, here’s our clerical screw-up and here’s how we fixed it.’ You need the subcommittee because that’s the way you get to present what you’ve taken care of.”
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