Congressman David Schweikert said he hopes an investigation by the U.S. House Ethics Committee will conclude in a few months, and that he expects the issue to be “long gone” by the time he’s up for re-election next year.
The committee is investigating allegations that he improperly used congressional office funds for campaign purposes and that he omitted information from his financial disclosure statements and campaign finance reports.
Schweikert told the Mirror on Wednesday that he expects the committee to clear him soon.
“I think we’re almost there. The light at the end of the tunnel is probably a few months away, at least I hope,” he said. “So far, they’ve read through a million some emails. And I believe we’ve come out clean. At least what we know so far is things look pretty good.”
Schweikert’s campaign finance report for the first quarter of 2019, which he filed with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday, showed that his campaign is about $229,000 in debt due to legal fees from the ethics probe, but had only $241,000 in the bank as of the beginning of April. Nonetheless, he said he doesn’t expect campaign funding to be a problem as he seeks re-election to a fifth term in Congress from his Scottsdale-based district.
Schweikert said the legal fees stem from paying “Washington, D.C., legal costs” for attorneys to comb through his office’s emails to demonstrate that the issues at the center of the ethics probe were simply clerical in nature.
“What will happen is very soon the expenses of reading the emails will be all over. And then, you know, you start putting resources aside for the actual campaign,” he said. “I’ve always been able to raise what’s necessary.”
With Schweikert facing ethics allegations and Republicans facing a potentially hostile political climate in 2020, when President Donald Trump is up for re-election, Democrats are eyeing Schweikert’s 5th Congressional District. Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a Glendale physician who ran a close race in the 2018 special election for the overwhelmingly Republican, West Valley-based 8th Congressional District, and again ran unsuccessfully for the seat in November, has declared her candidacy.
Schweikert said he’s unconcerned about losing his seat to a Democrat.
“The math doesn’t work,” Schweikert said of his district, where Republicans outnumber Democrats by nearly 70,000 voters.
Schweikert’s comments came as the ethics committee released a year-old report from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Office of Congressional Ethics board showing that, in April 2018, it found “substantial reason” to believe that Schweikert authorized campaign expenditures from congressional office funds, made by or on behalf of his then-chief of staff, Oliver Schwab. The report also said he may have accepted campaign contributions from a staffer “in the form of individual outlays that later were reimbursed by the campaign committees.”
The ethics committee’s probe began with allegations that Schweikert was paying Schwab for campaign services in excess of the permissible cap for outside employment by congressional employees. Schwab has since resigned. The committee expanded its probe in December to include the additional allegations.