ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona House expels Republican Rep. Liz Harris for ethics violation

Apr 12, 2023, 11:59 AM | Updated: 2:47 pm

Republican Rep. Liz Harris was expelled from the Arizona House on April 12, 2022. (Arizona Legislat...

Republican Rep. Liz Harris was expelled from the Arizona House on April 12, 2022. (Arizona Legislature and AP Photos)

(Arizona Legislature and AP Photos)

PHOENIX – The Arizona House voted to expel Republican Rep. Liz Harris on Wednesday for letting a witness make wide-ranging accusations of bribery during a February hearing about election reforms.

The full chamber vote came a day after the House Ethics Committee released a report that said Harris damaged “the integrity of the House” through her actions.

The resolution to expel Harris was approved by a 46-13 vote. It needed a minimum of 40 votes, two-thirds of the GOP-controlled House, to pass.

Eighteen Republicans, including Speaker Ben Toma and Majority Leader Leo Biasiucci, joined 28 Democrats in voting to oust Harris. One Democrat did not vote.

The move leaves the southeast Valley’s District 13 seat vacant and trims the Republican advantage in the House to 30-29 until it is filled.

By law, Harris must be replaced by a Republican. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will choose from a list of three candidates nominated by the GOP precinct committeemen in her district.

House Democratic Leader Andrés Cano said it was a “sad” but “necessary” day.

“Misinformation, lies, and conspiracies are not harmless, and it’s not just politics,” Cano said in a statement. “The defamatory allegations that Rep. Harris invited her guest speaker to make are patently absurd, but there are many people who believe them. They believe the lies, and they continue to threaten retribution because we dispute them.”

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 resolution to expel Harris cites the committee’s findings, which said the first-term lawmaker knew in advance Breger was going to make the criminal allegations and failed to provide the information for review beforehand, in violation of House regulations.

Arizona Republican lawmakers have given wide leeway for people claiming to be election experts to share unsubstantiated or disproven claims in hearings at the Capitol. They’re widely shared among right wing media figures and carry the imprimatur of an official legislative proceeding.

The hearing that became Harris’ downfall was just the latest in a series of similar events since the start of the year, though it was the first to catch such widespread backlash.

Breger, an insurance agent from Scottsdale, attributed her 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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona House expels Republican Rep. Liz Harris for ethics violation