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The Arizona Republic

Senate ethics panel clears Harper in vote recount case

Jan. 17, 2006
By Chip Scutari

A Republican-controlled Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against GOP Sen. Jack Harper on Monday, quashing a potential inquiry into his investigation of a legislative recount in a 2004 primary race.

Harper's critics had said that it appeared he let a local newspaper get a scoop because it paid for the investigation.

Harper, of Surprise, has been trying to investigate the recount in the District 20 primary contest. New Times, a weekly newspaper, agreed to pay up to $3,000 for a University of Iowa computer-science expert to examine voting machines used in the race. The expert, Douglas W. Jones, was allowed to inspect the machines last month as a result of Harper's subpoenas. The results of Jones' examination were first published Wednesday on the New Times Web site, about eight hours before senators received a copy of Jones' work.

The committee vote Monday was 3-2; three Republicans voted in Harper's favor.

The complaint, filed by Democratic Sen. Bill Brotherton, argued that Harper might have acted improperly in issuing a legislative subpoena to assist in an inquiry funded by New Times. His Republican colleagues on the Ethics Committee disagreed.

"I don't see how anything the senator did negatively affects the Senate," said Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley. "We have to find out what happened and make sure people who are winning elections are really winning elections."


Harper has said the U.S. Justice Department should investigate the disputed election, in which John McComish defeated Anton Orlich after a recount found more than 400 new votes and reversed the initial outcome. ...

And Harper said he never cut a deal with New Times.

"Looking back it would have been nice to have it in writing that they would not receive an exclusive," he said. "I was so eager not to make an agreement with them."