Arizona state Rep. Liz Harris expelled over cartel bribing allegations

Lawmaker Expelled-Arizona
The desk used by Arizona Republican Rep. Liz Harris at the state Capitol in Phoenix stands empty moments after she was expelled from the Legislature on Wednesday, April 12, 2023. Jonathan J. Cooper/AP

Arizona state Rep. Liz Harris expelled over cartel bribing allegations

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Republican Arizona state Rep. Liz Harris was expelled over her invitation of a speaker who made wide-ranging unfounded allegations that state officials had accepted bribes from drug cartels.

The final vote in the Republican-dominated House was 46 to 13. The overwhelming vote against Harris came at the recommendation of the House Ethics Committee, which “unanimously” ruled she had broken House rules and engaged in disorderly conduct “damaging the institutional integrity of the House,” the Arizona Mirror reported.

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“On a personal note, the only thing that we have done here is our word and our … integrity,” Republican House Speaker Ben Toma said of the decision. “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; we cannot represent the district well, they cannot … be part of anything significant.”

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Harris’s expulsion was over her invitation of real estate agent Jacqueline Breger to a Feb. 23 joint House and Senate elections committee meeting. Breger testified that many state officials had accepted bribes from Mexican drug cartels. She specifically named Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ), several Maricopa County supervisors, 12 Maricopa County Superior Court judges, and the mayor of Mesa.

Breger also broadly accused officials in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an unnamed number of legislators of being in on the scheme. The bribes were alleged to have been laundered through a housing deed scam.

Breger failed to give evidence backing her claims, but she cited an upcoming book from her boyfriend, Attorney John Thaler.

The presentation was denounced by both Democrats and Republicans and various state officials. Republican Sen. Ken Bennett stopped Breger during her presentation, saying she had gone too far and to stay on topic.

A judge in the U.S. District Court of Arizona dismissed all the claims in Breger’s presentation, writing that “Mr. Thaler’s complaint weaves a delusional and fantastical narrative that does not comport with federal pleading standards.”

In the subsequent ethics investigation, the committee found that Harris was aware of Breger’s presentation previous to it, contrary to her claims. It also found that Harris had undergone efforts to ensure that the presentation wasn’t screened by the legislation.

“Representative Harris’s inconsistent testimony leads the Committee to believe that she had a more detailed understanding of Breger’s presentation than she led the Joint Elections Committee to believe, and that Representative Harris had hoped to avoid providing the presentation to House leadership before the hearing,” the ethics committee wrote in its report.

“The committee finds that Representative Harris was not surprised or upset by Breger’s testimony and rejects Representative Harris’s testimony to the contrary,” it continued.

“Representative Harris wrote that she knew that the Joint Elections Committee would shut down the presentation,” it added, “and that doing so took the committee ‘longer than [she] thought’ it would. These messages show that not only was Representative Harris not taken by surprise by the presentation or ‘shocked’ by the inclusion of the table naming persons alleged to have accepted bribes, but that she expected the precise reception that it received.”

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Many protesters watching the proceedings expressed their displeasure with the decision.

“Shame on you! Shame, shame, shame!” one protester yelled before walking out.

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© 2023 Washington Examiner

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