Schweikert campaign in the red, trails Dem challenger in money raised




U.S. Rep.David Schweikert. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Republican incumbent Rep. David Schweikert continues to trail far behind Democratic congressional hopeful Hiral Tipirneni’s fundraising for the first quarter of the year in the contest for a suburban GOP district that Democrats think will be winnable in 2020. 

Tipirneni raised $506,894 in the first three months of the year and has $1.2 million in the bank, according to her latest campaign finance report.

Schweikert, who is running for his sixth Congressional term, raised $220,820 in the first quarter, and has only $226,287 on hand, according to his report.

The Fountain Hills Republican’s financial situation worsened from 2019, as he has spent more than he has raised so far in 2020. He notched $272,990 in expenses, mostly for legal expenses related to two ongoing House Ethics Committee investigations. 

The Committee is investigating allegations that Schweikert made improper payments to his former chief of staff and that he used congressional staff and resources for his campaign, including pressuring staff to conduct political activity.

He has said he expects to be cleared of wrongdoing and predicts that he will easily win his re-election bid.

As the probe has continued to drag on from 2017, Schweikert has said on multiple occasions that it should be a matter of months before the probe clears. But after three years, he has continued to spend the majority of what he raised on legal fees. 

This quarter alone, his campaign spent $180,580 for legal consultation from two law firms, Holland & Knight and Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky. 

The Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group that has backed Schweikert since he was first elected to Congress in 2010, is one of Schweikert’s biggest donors and has remained one of his main sources of funding for the quarter. 

Other prominent donors to his campaign in the first quarter include Thomas F. Gilman, the CFO and assistant secretary for administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; and Lorenzo and Joseph Fertitta, the brothers who ran Ultimate Fighting Championship between 2001 and 2016. He also received large contributions from political committees for investment bank Morgan Stanley, CVS Health, Fedex and Scottsdale-based homebuilder Meritage Homes.

Schweikert’s critics say it is unacceptable that he is spending almost all of the money he is raising on legal fees. 

“Arizonans deserve better than David Schweikert, a corrupt politician who expects to get away with misusing taxpayer money,” said Brooke Bainum, a spokeswoman for advocacy organization 314 Action, which is campaigning to defeat Schweikert

But despite spending large amounts of money on legal fees, Schweikert will still have more time to prepare for the general election because he is unchallenged in the Republican primary. Meanwhile, Tipirneni still has to face three Democratic primary candidates in the August election if she hopes to take on Schweikert in November. 

Her opponents include Karl Gente, who raised $41,809, and Anita Malik who raised $33,987 for the quarter. Meanwhile, the quarter’s FEC report for Stephanie Rimmer is not available. Malik was the Democratic nominee in 2018, and lost to Schweikert by more than 30,000 votes.

In other Arizona congressional races, the incumbents of both parties hold significant fundraising advantages over their opponents.  

Republican Rep. Andy Biggs outraised his only Democratic opponent, Joane Greene, by more than $225,000 in the deep-red 5th District, while Republican incumbent Debbie Lesko outraised Democratic challenger Michael Muscato by almost $144,000 in the 8th District. 

Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick raised almost $200,000 in the quarter, while Rep. Greg Stanton raised $210,620.