Ethics committee tosses Finchem’s complaint against Democrats

By: - February 19, 2021 2:25 pm

Capitol police try to hold back rioters outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo by Alex Kent | Tennessee Lookout

The ethics complaint filed against the Democratic caucuses of the Arizona legislature for asking the FBI to investigate a Republican legislator after he attended the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has been dismissed. 

“The ethics committee is not an arena for waging political contests,” Committee chair Becky Nutt said in dismissing the complaint filed by Rep. Mark Finchem, an Oro Valley Republican who was one of two GOP lawmakers present at the Capitol during last month’s coup attempt.

Nutt previously dismissed all 82 ethics complaints lodged against Finchem related to that, saying that the complaints fell outside the purview of the committee. 

“The ethics committee is also not a court of law,” Nutt said. “So, while I express no legal merits of Representative Finchem’s claims, I also conclude that the ethics committee should take no action on his complaint at this time.” 

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 was sent on letterhead bearing the Arizona state seal. And he alleged that the Democrats violated federal law by knowingly making a false report.

“The first round has gone down range in the fight against the propaganda machine,” Finchem said to his followers on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app, about the complaint when it was first announced. 

Finchem was at the Capitol when Trump supporters engaged in violence aimed at stopping Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory. The riot, during which Trump supporters stormed the building, 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 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 and Finchem’s complaint was seen as an offensive maneuver to those complaints. 

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. Text messages recently released by Finchem show that Biggs, Finchem and Alexander coordinated prior and leading up to the events of Jan. 6.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins 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. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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