House committee renews ethics inquiries into Collins, Hunter and Schweikert

Probes of Hunter and Collins, who are under indictment, put on hold at Justice Department request

Arizona Rep. David Schweikert is one of three Republicans, along with  Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, who will remain under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for the 116th Congress. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call photo)

House Ethics Committee investigations into Republicans Chris Collins of New York, Duncan Hunter of California and David Schweikert of Arizona were reauthorized for the 116th Congress this week.

The Ethics Committee voted unanimously to reauthorize investigative subcommittees looking into the three lawmakers, but the panel agreed to a Justice Department request to put its probes into Collins and Hunter on hold as they battle criminal indictments.

The subcommittee investigating allegations that Schweikert, an Arizona Republican, misused office resources and violated campaign finance rules will be led by Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota. Texas Republican Bill Flores will serve as ranking member.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, which referred the Schweikert case to House Ethics, found “substantial reason” to believe Schweikert authorized expenditures form his Members’ Representational Allowance, or MRA, that his former chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, made outside of the scope of permissible official expenses. OCE also recommended further review of allegations Schweikert failed to ensure his campaign committee followed the rules in accepting contributions from one of his congressional office employees that later were reimbursed from his official office account.

In December 2018, House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to expand the scope of its inquiry into Schweikert to include allegations that he may have used official resources to benefit his campaign and omitted required information from his annual House financial disclosure statements and Federal Election Commission candidate committee reports.

House Ethics Chairman Ted Deutch will lead the investigative subcommittee inquiry into Collins, who faces insider trading charges stemming from his investment in an Australian biotech company. He's due to go on trial on Feb. 3, 2020 in federal district court in New York City.

The indictment is tied to trades in the stock of Innate Immunotherapeutics, on whose board Collins served. A complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Collins of gaining personal benefit and providing nonpublic information to his son, Cameron Collins, who sold nearly $1.4 million of the company's stock.

The subcommittee looking into Hunter will be led by Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York. Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted in August for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses and covering their tracks in campaign finance filings to the Federal Election Commission. The couple faces 60 federal charges and is expected to go on trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California on Sept. 10.

The House Ethics Committee's votes to defer action on the Collins and Hunter cases follows previous precedent and comes at the request of the Justice Department.

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