GOP State Rep. Expelled From Arizona House For Lying About Conspiracy Presentation

Caitlin Sievers, Arizona Mirror

Republican Rep. Liz Harris was expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday for orchestrating a February meeting in which a member of the public spread wild conspiracy theories claiming that various state and local officials were in on a housing deed money laundering scheme involving a Mexican drug cartel and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Following a House Ethics Committee report released Tuesday that found Harris lied about her actions and that she had engaged in disorderly conduct, violating rules of the Arizona House of Representatives and “damaging the institutional integrity of the House,” the House voted 46-13 on Wednesday to expel her from the chamber. A two-thirds majority is necessary to expel someone from the chamber.

“I stand on honesty and integrity,” Harris told members of the media as she left the chamber on Wednesday. “God knows the truth. If you don’t toe the line, this is what happens.”

Although he said it wasn’t personal, Republican House Speaker Ben Toma, one of the lawmakers implicated in the unproven bribery scheme, voted to expel Harris.

“The only thing we have down here is our word and our integrity, and when that is clearly crossed, when you can no longer count on someone’s word or integrity, they can no longer be an effective legislator,” Toma said after the vote. “They cannot represent their district well, they cannot be part of anything significant. As difficult as it was, it was just the inevitable and also the right thing to do.”

Toma also pointed out that Harris repeatedly lied to the House Ethics Committee.

While Harris claimed during the Ethics Committee hearing that no criminal allegations were made during Jacqueline Breger’s Feb. 23 presentation to the House and Senate elections committees, the panel rejected that claim, finding that the evidence contradicted Harris’s testimony.

Republican Rep. David Livingston, of Peoria, one of the Republicans who voted to oust Harris, urged his colleagues to consider the vote with the weight it deserved.

“This comes down to the integrity, in my opinion, of this institution,” he said. “This is not personal — this is standing up for what’s right, no matter how difficult it is. And it hurts. And it should hurt. And it will hurt. This institution is more important than us individually.”

Harris’ replacement will be determined by the District 13 Republican precinct committeemen and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. The precinct committeemen have five days to nominate three possible replacements, to ultimately be chosen and appointed by the county board.

Harris faced the House Ethics Committee on March 30, after Democrats asked for her to be formally censured for inviting real estate agent Breger to a Feb. 23 joint House and Senate elections committee meeting.

Breger provided no proof of her wild and unfounded allegations, including that Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs was involved in the money laundering scheme, but that didn’t stop them from spreading like wildfire, fueled by fringe conservative media. Many Republican members of the legislature soon distanced themselves from Harris and Breger’s presentation.

The Ethics Committee found that many of the claims that Harris made during its hearing were untrue, including that she was not aware that Breger would make criminal allegations during her presentation, and that she was surprised by the content of Breger’s presentation.

Scottsdale Republican Rep. Alexander Kolodin, who was present for the Feb. 23 elections committee meeting, said that while he was disappointed in Harris’s actions, he does not believe expelling her was the right call.

“This makes her a martyr for these awful allegations,” Kolodin said. “It’s setting the precedent that, if you rock the boat too much, you will be expelled.”

Republican Rep. Joseph Chaplik, who heads the Ethics Committee that recommended Harris be punished, also voted against her expulsion.

Minority Leader Andres Cano thanked the Ethics Committee and Toma for taking this matter seriously.

“This is a sad and somber day for our institution, but it is a necessary day,” Cano said. “This did real and lasting damage to the lives and reputations of people who did not deserve it.”

He voted to expel Harris, Cano said, with the hope of restoring integrity and honor to the House of Representatives.

The Arizona House last kicked out a legislator in 2018 when it expelled Republican Rep. Don Shooter because of a lengthy pattern of sexual misconduct, according to the Associated Press.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

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