Ethics committee won't hear complaint about Rep. Mark Finchem's role in Jan. 6 Capitol riot
The chair of the ethics committee in the Arizona House of Representatives said Friday she will not take any action on a pile of complaints filed against Rep. Mark Finchem amid mounting scrutiny of his travels to the U.S. Capitol when a mob stormed the building on Jan. 6.
The Republican lawmaker from Oro Valley has denied any wrongdoing and said that while he was scheduled to speak at a rally near the U.S. Capitol that day, he never got within 500 yards of the building.
But Democratic lawmakers and some constituents have called for an investigation.
Rep. César Chávez, D-Phoenix, filed a complaint with the ethics committee Jan. 13 arguing that Finchem’s own social media posts "demonstrate beyond any doubt that he participated in the insurrection in Washington, D.C. and supported others in their efforts."
Finchem posted a photo on Twitter on Jan. 6 of a crowd on the steps of the Capitol and one man standing on top of a vehicle, for example, with the caption: "What happens when the People feel they have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud."
Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, who leads the ethics committee, wrote on Friday that she received 81 additional complaints regarding Finchem in the ensuing weeks. She said most appeared to be form letters.
"More to the point, none of the complaints offered any facts establishing that Representative Finchem actually 'supported the violent overthrow of our government' or directly participated in the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol," Nutt wrote.
"Absent such facts, the complaints amount to an objection to Representative Finchem's advocacy of controversial political opinions. But the ethics committee is not — and cannot become — a forum for resolving political disagreement, no matter how important the issues at stake."
Finchem declined to comment, on the advice of legal counsel.
Chávez said he was dumbfounded by the decision, pointing to other developments, such as Finchem's refusal to comply with a public records request from The Arizona Republic regarding his travels to Washington, D.C. around Jan. 6. Finchem did so via a private attorney, though the request was made to the Arizona House of Representatives. A House official has said they are still processing the request.
"For her to make what looks like a unilateral decision to throw these complaints into a garbage can is not only a wrongdoing but a shame," he said.
Most of the House Democratic caucus co-sponsored a resolution earlier in the week to expel Finchem from the Legislature. It is unclear if or when the House will vote on it.
Residents of Finchem's district have also undertaken a recall campaign.