The chief of staff, Richard “Oliver” Schwab, left his position last year.
Schweikert did not speak on the floor before the vote, but members of the House Ethics Committee said it was imperative that they maintain a standard for lawmakers.
“There is no joy in reprimanding one of our colleagues,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), a panel member who helped lead the House Ethics Committee investigative subcommittee on the matter. “A transgression by one of us is a stain on all of us. . . . We are duty bound to hold ourselves to the highest standard of conduct, and serve as role models.”
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.), the ranking member of the panel, agreed and encouraged all members to vote to reprimand Schweikert.
“It is essential to maintain the public’s trust of our chamber,” Marchant said, noting that the investigative subcommittee met 22 times during this Congress and four times in the previous one, reviewed over 200,000 pages of documents and conducted 18 witness interviews.
In its report released Thursday, the investigative subcommittee found that between July 2010 and December 2017, Schweikert “erroneously disclosed or failed to disclose” at least $305,000 in loans or loan repayments. During that time, Schweikert’s campaign also failed to disclose at least $25,000 in spending and more than $140,000 in donations, and falsely reported $100,000 in expenditures, the panel said.
Additionally, Schwab was found to have spent $270,000 on Schweikert’s campaign, an alleged violation of federal law. And Schweikert also spent official funds on unofficial and campaign purposes and used campaign funds to reimburse his congressional staffers for personal items, “including food and babysitting services,” over the course of seven years, the ethics report said.
“Accordingly Rep. Schweikert did not act in a manner that reflected creditably on the House,” the panel said in its report.
In a statement, Schweikert’s office did not address any of the alleged violations but said the congressman is eager to move on from the matter.
“We are pleased the Committee has issued their report and we can move forward from this chapter,” Schweikert’s office said. “As noted in the review, all issues have been resolved and Congressman Schweikert will continue working hard for Arizona’s 6th District.”
No further action is planned against the congressman.
The vote Friday marked the first time the House had reprimanded a member for an ethics-related violation since August 2012, when it sanctioned then-Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.), who paid a $10,000 fine for forcing her congressional staff to work on her 2010 campaign.
Democrats see a political opportunity in Schweikert’s reprimand three months before the election.
Political handicappers view Schweikert’s seat as a possible pickup opportunity for Democrats as they go on offense in long-held GOP districts, though his Republican-leaning district backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by 10 percentage points in 2016.
In early July, the University of Virginia Center for Politics moved his race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”
Schweikert is running unopposed in next week’s Republican primary in Arizona’s 6th District. Four candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination to face him in November; among them, Hiral Tipirneni had a $1 million cash-on-hand advantage over Schweikert as of mid-July, according to the Arizona Republic.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which is backing Tipirneni, called on GOP leaders to strip Schweikert of his committee assignments, describing him as “a man without remorse, who is willing to betray his constituents and American taxpayers for his own gain.”
“The House Ethics Committee’s unanimous findings and the fine imposed on Schweikert are a black mark that will stay on his record until Arizonans summarily kick him out of office in November and instead elect the responsible and transparent Dr. Hiral Tipirneni,” DCCC spokeswoman Sarah Guggenheimer said in a statement.
In its report, the House Ethics Committee said that its investigative subcommittee had unanimously concluded that there was “substantial reason to believe” Schweikert had “violated House Rules, the Code of Ethics for Government Service, federal laws and other applicable standards.”
The panel added that Schweikert’s alleged rulebreaking was connected to “campaign finance violations and reporting errors by his authorized campaign committees; the misuse of his Members’ Representational Allowance for unofficial purposes; pressuring official staff to perform campaign work; and his lack of candor and due diligence during the investigation.”