Arizona House votes to expel Rep. Liz Harris
Arizona Republican Liz Harris was expelled from the state House of Representatives for inviting a witness to present false charges about lawmakers and other state officials — and then lying about her involvement in the outrageous testimony.
A bipartisan, two-thirds majority of the House voted Wednesday to kick out Harris, an election-denying freshman lawmaker from Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix.
The vote came the day after the release of a House Ethics Committee report, which concluded that Harris knew, or was at least aware, that a woman she arranged to testify at the Capitol would claim, without evidence, that a host of elected officials and judges, including Gov. Katie Hobbs, took bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel and committed other crimes, such as money laundering.
Gilbert insurance agent Jacqueline Breger also claimed during the February hearing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints “controls” the government and played a key role in money laundering schemes.
Breger provided no evidence to support the outlandish claims. But a video of her testimony exploded on the internet in the days following the hearing.
At one point, “#CartelKatie was trending on Twitter.
It didn’t matter that there was no substance to the claims. The fact that they were presented before Republican lawmakers in their official capacity at the state Capitol — Democrats on the committees boycotted the hearing — gave the accusations enough credibility to spread.
That was problematic enough to merit the ethics investigation and expulsion, according to House Speaker Ben Toma — a Republican, and one of the lawmakers falsely accused of criminal activity.
“Each member could make up their own mind on whether or not Representative Harris did in fact, not only perpetrate this to begin with, but then contradict herself numerous times during the ethics hearing process,” said Toma, one of the 46 lawmakers who voted to expel Harris.
In full, the ethics panel concluded Harris’ actions violated House Rules and damaged the body’s institutional integrity.
“Harris engaged in disorderly behavior in violation of House Rule 1, thereby eroding the public trust in the legislative process,” the resolution calling for her expulsion read.
The ethics report also found that Harris lied to the panel when she claimed she had no idea Breger would make such wild accusations.
“The only thing that we have down here is our word and our integrity,” Toma said. “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.”
Harris did not speak out on her own behalf as the House voted to expel her. She quietly left the House floor after the roll call vote. Only after the House adjourned did a handful of her supporters in the gallery speak out, shouting “shame on you, shame, shame, shame.”
It’s the second time in six years the House has voted to kick out one of its own. In 2018, the chamber voted to expel then-Rep. Don Shooter, who was found to have serially sexually harassed his colleagues and lobbyists at the state Capitol.
April 12, 2023: Ethics committee concludes Rep. Liz Harris broke Arizona House rules
Rep. Liz Harris was found to have violated House rules by inviting a witness to present false charges about lawmakers and other state officials to a legislative committee.
Hear Arizona Agenda’s Hank Stephenson discuss Harris with host Mark Brodie The Show
In a report released Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee says it also found that Harris, a freshman Republican lawmaker from Chandler, later lied when claiming she had no idea that the witness would make such wild accusations.
It's now up to the full, 60-member House to decide whether, or how, to punish her.
The ethics panel found that Harris knew, or was at least aware, that Jacqueline Breger was going to allege that numerous people, including House Speaker Ben Toma (R-Peoria), other lawmakers, judges were all part of schemes involving money laundering, drug trafficking, public corruption, bribery of public officials and election fraud.
Breger also asserted during the February hearing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints “controls” government agencies and has been “integral to the laundering activities.”
And the panel said even if they believed that Harris did not know of her testimony ahead of time — a contention they rejected — she did nothing during the hearing to stop the nearly 45-minute presentation. Harris had invited Breger, a Scottsdale insurance agent, to speak during a hearing on elections.
Harris’ actions violated House Rule No. 1, which prohibits members from engaging in disorderly behavior, according to the ethics panel, which further concluded that Harris had damaged the institutional integrity of the House.
“What the House Rules cannot tolerate is a member engaged in the conduct described above, which erodes public trust in the legislative process,” according to the report, which was unanimously signed by the three Republicans and two Democrats on the panel.
Rep. Travis Grantham, a Gilbert Republican serving on the Ethics Committee, said the panel’s conclusions made him “sick to my stomach,” but he stood by the factual evidence that showed Harris lied to the panel.
Harris could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Ethics Committee made no formal recommendation for how Harris should be punished for violating House Rules. However, “the Committee deems it appropriate for the House as a whole to decide what disciplinary measures should be taken,” their report stated.
House Democrats said the report validated their previous attempt to censure Harris — a maneuver that was sidestepped by House Republicans, who said at the time it was premature pending an ethics investigation.
“The report now clearly demonstrates that Rep. Harris has damaged the integrity of the institution that we all hold dear,” said House Minority Leader Andres Cano of Tucson. “House Republicans need to tell us what their plan is to make sure this doesn't happen again.”