Finchem files ethics complaint against all Democrats over FBI referral

By: - February 17, 2021 4:31 pm

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Oro Valley Republican Mark Finchem filed an ethics complaint against every Democratic member of the Arizona legislature Tuesday for a letter they sent last month asking the Department of Justice and FBI to investigate his and other lawmakers’ alleged roles in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

Finchem was at the Capitol when Trump supporters engaged in a violent coup attempt aimed at stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory that left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. On his Twitter page, Finchem posted a photo he took from nearby the Capitol after rioters and protesters had breached the building and forced members of Congress into hiding.

“What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud,” he wrote, praising the rioters. 

Finchem has since deleted his Twitter account. 

State Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, filed an ethics complaint about the tweet, arguing that it showed Finchem participated in the insurrection. In the following four weeks, the committee received 81 more complaints. Those ethics complaints were all dismissed last week.

Finchem opens up his ethics complaint with a quote from famed director Miloš Forman about the Communist Party, comparing his Democratic colleagues and the former USSR. He went on to accuse them all of conspiring against him with the media and breaking federal law in the process.

“Each of the above-named House and Senate members have conspired, maliciously and in bad faith, to have me (and others) punished for exercising my First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and contest the legitimacy of the recent Presidential election,” the complaint says. 

Finchem contends that the letter sent by House and Senate Democrats was issued under false pretenses as it was not an “official act of the legislature” but used letterhead bearing the Arizona state seal. 

Finchem also goes into detail about what happened on Jan. 6 and on Tuesday he partially released cell phone records he had been refusing to release related to the riots. 

Finchem has said he became aware that his planned speech was cancelled at 1:55 p.m. eastern time, and said that he could not “see any activity associated with the breach of the Capitol” while he was there after marching with the crowd from an earlier speech by President Donald Trump. He said he did not learn that the Capitol was breached until 5 p.m. 

“I have made it absolutely clear that I have been ‘outspoken against violence for years,’ and that the events at the Capitol were ‘tragic,’” Finchem says in the complaint. 

However, Finchem never condemned the riots on his public Twitter account and even shared misinformation, including a debunked claim about antifa being behind the riots, according to an archive of his Twitter account obtained by Arizona Mirror. 

Finchem also contends in his complaint that the FBI warning ahead of time that there could be violence at the Jan. 6 event is evidence that Finchem did not encourage the mob on Jan. 6.. 

Finchem has been instrumental in the #StopTheSteal movement, which was a driving force behind much of the violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The lead organizer of the rally that took place before the insurrection, Ali Alexander, said that Finchem was key to Arizona’s success and Finchem shared the hashtag widely on his Twitter page, which was boosted by President Donald Trump in the days preceding the riot. 

Finchem frequently spread misinformation about the 2020 elections, much of which was flagged by Twitter as being incorrect. He also organized an event at a Phoenix hotel in late November to air debunked conspiracy theories about the election that he is now asking his followers to help him pay for. At that event, Trump’s lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and other pro-Trump figures gathered with state GOP lawmakers and the president’s supporters to discuss baseless theories that Joe Biden won Arizona’s election by fraud. 

Alexander, a right-wing personality and former felon, started the “Stop the Steal” movement. In a since deleted video, he said the Jan. 6 rally was planned with Arizona Republican Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, as well as Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks. Biggs has since denied the allegations

Finchem’s complaint alleges that House and Senate democrats violated federal law by making a false report and is asking the House and Senate Ethics committees to investigate. 

“Now, more than ever, we witness the consequences of not holding our elected officials accountable for inciting people based on lies and conspiracies,” Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe, said to the Mirror about Finchem.

Salman, who spearheaded a resolution that called for Finchem’s expulsion from the legislature for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, his ties to extremist groups and for spreading misinformation about the election, said the complaint hasn’t changed her opinion.

“My stance hasn’t changed, the member should be expelled,” Salman said, adding that the expulsion effort has stalled and efforts like a recall will likely be the only option for constituents who may take issue with Finchem’s actions.

However, Salman said the Democratic caucus is still working with “all tools available” to “hold Finchem accountable” but admitted they are fighting against the GOP controlled majority which will likely stifle any efforts.

***UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from Rep. Athena Salman.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joined the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.