Ethics panel moves ahead on probe of Schweikert office finances

The House Ethics Committee said it is moving forward with an investigation of Rep. David Schweikert’s use of office funds and payments by his campaign to his Capitol Hill chief of staff. (Photo by Katie Bieri/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – The House Ethics Committee said Thursday it is moving ahead with its investigation of Rep. David Schweikert and his chief of staff for possible misuse of office funds and improper campaign contributions.

The committee said it is also looking into whether the aide, Oliver Schwab, may have received outside income in excess of House rules and may not have filed “full and complete financial disclosure statements.”

The move was approved unanimously by the committee on June 14 and announced Thursday. That is an acceleration of an earlier timetable, as the committee had originally set Nov. 14 as the deadline for an announcement.

In published reports, Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills, said that he had asked the committee to push ahead with its investigation of the spending, which he called merely a “clerical screw-up.”

“It’s my fault. Our fault,” Schweikert told a Fox News reporter Thursday, according to the reporter’s tweet of the exchange. “We should have caught it.”

He later told Politico that the announcement of the investigation is “wonderful because we have been asking to have a formal review so we can present our information since almost December.”

When asked for comment Thursday, a Schweikert spokeswoman confirmed the exchange with the Fox reporter, but otherwise referred back to the tweet in lieu of a statement.

Ethics committee staffers said they were not able to comment on the media reports or the committee’s deliberations on the investigation.

A committee statement said Thursday that Schweikert and Schwab were being investigated for impermissible spending from his federal representative allowance and for possible improper campaign contributions from Schwab and other staffers.

The excessive compensation claims against Schwab apparently stem from his operation of Chartwell, a consulting firm that was employed by Schweikert and his campaign, according to a report by the Washington Examiner.

Federal Election Commission reports show that three Schweikert-linked committees had paid a total of $181,637.09 to Chartwell since 2014, with most of that coming during the 2016 election cycle. That would be well over the $25,830 maximum that senior congressional staff are allowed in outside income, according to the House ethics manual.

FEC records also show that Chartwell returned $50,372.14 to Friends of David Schweikert in nine separate payments on March 31.

The nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics reviewed the allegations and referred them to the House Ethics Committee in April after finding “substantial evidence” of an ethics violation.

The ethics committee voted in May to “extend the matter” and then voted earlier this month to pursue the investigation.