A Democratic member of the Senate Ethics Committee said Wednesday he hopes to force an investigation into whether a Republican lawmaker "rented out" his legislative subpoena powers.
Sen. Bill Brotherton, D-Phoenix, is concerned that an agreement between Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, and a Phoenix weekly newspaper violates the Senate’s ethics rules.
In a complaint filed Wednesday with the committee, Brotherton said Harper may have abused his legislative power by issuing subpoenas to get information that will be given exclusively to Phoenix New Times.
Harper, who is investigating voting irregularities in the 2004 District 20 primary, cut a deal with New Times to pay for an expert to look at voting machines used in the disputed election.
In return, the New Times owns exclusive rights to the report authored by University of Iowa computer expert Dr. Douglas Jones.
"I think we need to look and see if Sen. Harper rented out his subpoena power to a private company," Brotherton said.
He said he can force the investigation because another Democrat on the ethics committee, Linda Aguirre, D-Phoenix, will support him. Before an investigation can go forward, the rules call for at least two members on the ethics committee to call for an inquiry.
Harper, however, rejected Brotherton’s claims, saying that he acted in an ethical manner and with the "purest" of intentions.
"I welcome the investigation. In fact, I think someone should call the Justice Department to come down here and sort this whole thing out," Harper said.
He also said New Times does not own the report because Jones is working as an employee who reports to the Senate committee.
However, Rick Barrs, editor of the New Times, disagreed, saying they own the rights and plan to run a story Jan. 12.
"We’re not going to hand out the report to the press and get scooped on our own endeavor," Barrs said.