Congress

Ethics report on former Schweikert chief of staff raises questions about lawmaker’s conduct

Schweikert says he will not let ethics cloud deter re-election efforts

Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., said the ethics investigation into him and his chief of staff was prompted by a disgruntled former employee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. David Schweikert’s former chief of staff used official funds on a six-day trip to Arizona in which he attended Super Bowl XLIX; separately, he made impermissible contributions to his boss and received income beyond the House’s outside earned income limit for his position, according to a report made public Wednesday by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Many of the allegations into the former chief of staff, Richard Oliver Schwab, Jr., relate to Schweikert, who is under the scrutiny of a House Ethics Committee investigative subcommittee.

Schweikert characterizes the investigation as one that was prompted by a disgruntled former employee.

“We had a former staffer that was fired years ago and the rumor is that he spent a big chunk of his life trying to get vengeance on Schwab,” Schweikert told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview.

The Arizona Republican said he isn’t concerned that the report on Schwab is associated with him and that he expects everything to be cleared up with the House Ethics in around three to four months. Schweikert added that he will “absolutely” run for re-election.

“This has weighed really heavy on me and I’m sorry there was a fired employee who was so angry, but I think as we go through this, if we’ve made a mistake we’ll fix it, but I can’t imagine there was anything that was intentional,” he said.

The OCE previously recommended the House Ethics Committee further review allegations regarding Schweikert because it said it had substantial reason to believe he authorized expenditures from his Members’ Representational Allowance made by or on behalf of Schwab that were not for permissible official expenses.

“I had nothing to do with approving the trips,” Schweikert said when asked about the trip to Arizona. As of Wednesday night he said he hadn't read much of the report and was waiting to read the full report until the weekend.

OCE also said it had substantial reason to believe Schweikert failed to ensure that his campaign committee complied with applicable rules on contributions from congressional employees.

OCE’s report notes that in addition to receiving an annual salary of $168,411 working as Schweikert’s chief of staff, Schwab earned income for political consulting and fundraising activities he performed on behalf of campaign entities affiliated with Schweikert.

A former staffer described Schwab in the OCE report as having a “dual hat role” by working as chief of staff and as a campaign fundraiser. OCE was told by a former employee that the majority of Schwab’s focus was on Schweikert’s re-election. Federal Election Commission disbursement reports show that Schwab was paid by the Schweikert Victory Committee and Schweikert for Congress, according to the OCE report. The report also shows that in 2014 Schwab’s political consulting company, Chartwell, was paid $57,950, well above the outside earned income limit of $26,955.

The OCE report determined that Schwab was likely reimbursed for at least $16,886 in personal outlays made on behalf of Schweikert’s campaign committees.

OCE determined that $6,059 in official funds were spent on Schwab’s 2015 trip to Arizona where he and his family watched the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. OCE notes that Schwab’s wife (then fiancee), his mother, who lives in Massachusetts, and brother, who resides in California, were also in Arizona that weekend. OCE’s report also states that Schwab may have managed various official matters on that trip, including hosting an event with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who was the House majority leader then.

After Schwab resigned in July 2018, the House Ethics Committee lost jurisdiction over him. OCE, the independent entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members and staff, voted unanimously to release the report on June 7. Schweikert and Schwab refused to cooperate with OCE’s review.

Schweikert said he has not spoken to Schwab since he left his office.

“I was marching along thinking things were just fine and you wake up one day and hear this inbound information on your chief of staff and you start trying to understand if you’ve made mistakes. Or your chief of staff made mistakes, that’s a better way of phrasing it,” Schweikert said.

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