ARIZONA NEWS

Ethics panel says GOP Rep. Liz Harris damaged integrity of Arizona House

Apr 11, 2023, 1:50 PM

Rep. Liz Harris (Photo By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)...

Rep. Liz Harris (Photo By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

(Photo By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link)

PHOENIX — The Arizona House Ethics Committee found that Republican Rep. Liz Harris violated chamber rules by allowing wide-ranging bribery accusations during a February hearing about election reforms, “damaging the integrity of the House.”

“The Committee deems it appropriate for the House as a whole to decide what disciplinary measures should be taken,” the panel said in a report released Tuesday.

During her Feb. 23 presentation at a hearing organized by Harris, Jaqueline Breger accused a swath of politicians from both parties, judges and public officials of taking bribes from a Mexican drug cartel.

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton filed an ethics complaint against Harris on March 6, and the Ethics Committee held an evidentiary hearing on March 30.

“The Committee unanimously concludes that Representative Harris committed disorderly behavior, thereby violating Rule 1 of the Rules of the Arizona House of Representatives and damaging the integrity of the House,” the report says.

House Democratic Leader Andrés Cano praised the panel, which consists of three Republicans and two Democrats.

“I appreciate the diligent and transparent work done by the House Ethics Committee,” he said in a statement. “The findings are definite and supported by evidence and testimony — and it is now time for House Republicans to hold Representative Harris accountable.”

Harris is a first-term lawmaker from the southeast Valley’s District 13 who led a door-to-door canvassing effort searching for proof of fraud following the 2020 election. Her effort drew scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division, who warned about potential voter intimidation.

Breger’s 40-minute presentation came at the end of a daylong hearing of the elections committees in the state House and Senate, which Democrats boycotted. Breger, an insurance agent from Scottsdale, attributed the allegations to a report written by John Thaler, who she said was an attorney with a background in fraud investigations.

Thaler alleged, without reliable evidence, that two women working on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel used fraudulent mortgage documents to launder money to a wide range of officials, both Republicans and Democrats. Online sleuths discovered the women Thaler accused of facilitating the fraud were his ex-wife and her mother.

Thaler has a history of filing lawsuits accusing them of carrying out wide-ranging conspiracies. A federal judge last year dismissed one of his lawsuits, calling it “a delusional and fantastical narrative.”

Republican leaders raced to distance themselves from the claims after they caught fire on social media, where accounts that routinely share unsubstantiated claims of election fraud covered them widely. It was an embarrassment for an election fraud movement that has mostly found a sympathetic, or at least tolerant, ear among Arizona legislative Republicans.

House Speaker Ben Toma and Senate President Warren Petersen, both Republicans, pinned blame for the presentation on Harris.

Petersen said he agreed to allow the hearing at the request of Harris and Toma, adding that Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli asked to review materials before they were presented but was not shown the bribery allegations.

“I assure you, had he known about the report, he would not have allowed it to be included,” Petersen said in a statement. “This was definitely not the proper venue to make such allegations, nor to assess the credibility of such statements.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Ethics panel says GOP Rep. Liz Harris damaged integrity of Arizona House