Group seeks to block accused insurgents from elections

January 6 Uprising

PHOENIX — A national organization involved in election issues is moving to block State Representative Mark Finchem from running for secretary of state.

Legal documents filed Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court say the Oro Valley Republican is not legally qualified to hold public office. This is based on an argument that his planning and participation in the January 6 riot amounted to an act of insurrection.

What makes this relevant, according to the lawsuit, is the Fourteenth Amendment, approved by Congress in the wake of the Civil War. It says anyone who “has engaged in insurrection or rebellion” is barred from holding office in the federal or state government.

And Ron Fein, the legal director of Free Speech for People, told Capitol Media Services that what happened on Jan. 6 clearly meets that definition.

It’s not just Finchem in the organization’s legal crosshairs.

Virtually identical lawsuits were filed Thursday to bar Republican Congressmen Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs from running for re-election. Here too, the legal documents cite their roles in the January 6 event.

The timing is no accident.

Last Monday was the deadline for applicants to submit their application materials. And Arizona law says challenges to anyone’s candidacy must be filed within 10 business days.

Fein said it shouldn’t take long to resolve the issue.

He said state law gives trial judges 10 days after the lawsuit is filed to rule. In fact, a trial has already been set in the Finchem case for April 12; none have yet been established in the claims against Gosar and Biggs.

Fein said each side has five days after a decision to seek a Supreme Court review. And Fein said the law requires judges “to make a decision quickly.”

Finchem, in a Twitter post, calls the legal filing “desperate.”

There was no immediate response from Gosar or Biggs.

The lawsuit against Finchem cites his claims, beginning just after the 2020 election, that Donald Trump had in fact won the election. Specifically, he attended the January 6 protest.

And while the lawsuit doesn’t suggest that Finchem entered the Capitol…

he denies going inside – he says he was involved in the plan ‘to bully Congress and the Vice President into throwing out valid electoral voters and subverting the essential constitutional function of a transition orderly and peaceful power”.

The lawsuits also say that Gosar and Biggs, who were inside the Capitol trying to block certification of the election results, were also involved in planning what happened outside of that day. And it was here, Fein said, that activities crossed the line into what became an insurgency.

“An insurrection is more than just a riot, it’s more than just anarchy,” he said. “It is a violent uprising specifically intended to overthrow the constituted government, to overthrow a legally constituted regime.”

Fein said the events of January 6 clearly fit that legal definition.

“It’s not just that this was a violent assault on the nation’s capitol building with a complete takeover of the capitol and near realized threats to capture and execute the vice president and the Speaker of the House,” he said.

“The very purpose of this attack was to disrupt, delay, and ultimately prevent a peaceful transfer of power from the lawfully constituted government,” Fein continued. And that, he said, meets not only the definitions that would have been contemplated in 1868 by those who drafted the amendment, but also those of any modern court.

This is not the first attempt by Fein’s organization to eliminate from the ballot those he believes were involved in the insurgency. Separate action is underway in Georgia to disqualify Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from running again in 2022.

The organization also tried, unsuccessfully, to block Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina from running again.

In that case, a federal judge hearing the case sided with Cawthorn’s attorney who pointed out something else in the Fourteenth Amendment.

He says Congress, by a two-thirds vote, can override the disqualification. And the judge accepted arguments that the Amnesty Act of 1872 did when it said that “all political disabilities” imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment were “hereby removed from all persons who is”.

The lawsuit is not the first time there have been allegations against Finchem about his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Earlier this year, a majority of state House Democrats called for Finchem’s expulsion based on what they said was wrongdoing before and during that event.

The complaints were dismissed by Rep. Becky Nutt, who chaired the House Ethics Committee. She said none of the claims support the claim that Finchem “supported the violent overthrow of our government” as alleged or that he directly participated in the attack on the Capitol.

This last point, Nutt said, was crucial to his decision to dismiss the complaints without even demanding a response from Finchem and without investigating further.

“Absent such facts, the complaints constitute an objection to Representative Finchem’s advocacy of a controversial political opinion,” Nutt said. “The ethics committee is not – and cannot become – a forum for resolving political disagreements, no matter how high the stakes at stake.”

Finchem returned with his own ethics complaint against Democrats after they asked the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate his activities on Jan. 6. for exercising my First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and challenge the legitimacy of the recent presidential election.

This complaint was also dismissed.

But Finchem, Gosar and former Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, later filed a libel suit against Rep. Charlene Fernandez, D-Yuma, one of the signatories of that letter to federal agencies, accusing them of defaming them with comments about their roles in the events of January 6.

Jennifer C. Burleigh