Republican Rep. David Schweikert vowed to return 'fiscal sanity' to Washington. Now his office faces an ethics investigation for misuse of taxpayer and campaign money.
Thursday brought unwelcome news for Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ). He now faces a House Ethics Committee investigation into potential misuse of funds by his chief of staff, Oliver Schwab.
This is an especially humiliating development for Schweikert, who ran for Arizona's 6th Congressional District as a conservative math wonk who would "return fiscal sanity" to Washington.
"My talent is numbers," he boasted during his 2012 campaign.
According to the Arizona Republic, while the committee cannot disclose the exact nature of the investigation until after the election, it is "acting on an investigation by the House Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that only refers cases where it has already found substantial evidence of a violation."
Schweikert, for his part, dismisses the investigation as a "bookkeeping issue," and told reporters on Thursday that it "looks like things are fine." But serious questions remain.
Last year, a report from the Washington Examiner first raised questions about spending by Schwab, including over $5,000 in taxpayer money on a five-day trip to Phoenix on Super Bowl weekend, and $20,000 in office supplies from an outside vendor. "Although not self-evidently improper, these transactions rang alarm bells among Schweikert staff," the report says.
The report also noted that Schwab ran a consulting firm on the side, and made $165,000 off his firm's contracts with three fundraising committees for Schweikert's congressional campaigns, prompting one official to complain Schwab was "effectively paying himself."
According to the Associated Press, this allegation triggered the initial complaint to the OCE in January by a Democratic activist in Schweikert's district, asserting Schwab exceeded staffer limits on income from side jobs, and that Schweikert's committees "accepted illegal in-kind campaign contributions."
"Such behavior on the part of Rep. Schweikert and Mr. Schwab represents a pattern of flagrant violations of federal law and House Rules," says the complaint.
Numerous other House Republicans have been caught up in financial ethics scandals. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), for instance, is under investigation by the Justice Department for allegedly skimming money off his campaign accounts, including $138,000 just on trips to bars, liquor stores, and cigar lounges.
Some congressmen were even caught using taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment complaints, like Reps. Pat Meehan (R-PA) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX), who resigned to avoid their own ethics committee investigations.
Schweikert's district, which includes the northeastern suburbs of Phoenix, is heavily Republican and voted for Trump by 10 points. But Democrats have put seats even redder than that in play this cycle.
Voters in Arizona deserve clear answers and accountability. Schweikert cannot continue to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility when this is how he has run his own ship.