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Conflict Of Interest: Arizona Lawmakers To Call For Sen. Mark Kelly To Recuse From ATF Vote Over Giffords Ties


Republicans in the Arizona legislature are gearing up to demand Arizona Democrat U.S Sen. Mark Kelly recuse himself from the confirmation vote for David Chipman, President Biden’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) director nominee, for his leadership ties to a gun-control group where Chipman is a lobbyist.

Rep. Quang Nguyen is leading the legislative effort, The Federalist has learned, and he plans to introduce the proclamation Thursday with the backing of other lawmakers. Nguyen notably raises concerns about Kelly’s ability to vote in an uncompromised manner since Chipman works for Giffords, an anti-gun organization founded by Kelly and his wife Gabby Giffords in 2013. 

We “DEMAND U.S. Senator Mark Kelly recuse himself from a confirmation vote,” the proclamation states. “Chipman’s current employment at Giffords, an organization co-founded by Senator Kelly, raises serious ethical questions regarding this vote and presents a clear and credible conflict of interest that puts the constitutional rights of Americans in jeopardy.”

Spokesman Hilton Beckham for Andy Biggs, the Republican congressman from Arizona, told The Federalist Biggs supports the legislature’s effort urging Kelly to recuse himself.

Kelly’s group spent close to $7 million to elect Democrats in 2018 and Kelly individually received $5,706 in funding from Giffords as a 2020 candidate. The Arizona Democrat claimed on his website, “This campaign is about the people of Arizona, not corporate PACs and the mess they’ve created in Washington,” but refused to notify OpenSecrets at the time about what his level of involvement with Giffords would look like in the future. 

Chipman is still employed by Giffords. His resume in the congressional record highlights this, as well as his affiliation to Kelly. It specifies Chipman is a “[s]enior advisor to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, co-founders of Giffords” and is “[c]harged with providing firearms policy training to members of Congress, gun violence prevention advocates and other groups impacted by gun violence.”

Chipman also affirmed his current employment while testifying.

“Yes,” the ATF nominee told Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. “I am currently employed by Giffords and have remained in contact with my colleagues and other stakeholder groups regarding my nomination. I have met with stakeholder groups, including several law enforcement groups, in connection with my nomination in order to meet their leadership and hear about their interests and concerns.”

Nguyen and other Republicans determine Kelly cannot fairly assess Biden’s ATF nominee given the perceived conflict of interest. The representative, who is also the president of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, indicated that based on private conversations with House Speaker Russell Bowers and Majority Whip Leo Biasiucci he has their full support.

He does not foresee any Democrats supporting the initiative and noted they will not “even have an understanding of why I’m doing this.”

“I want to make sure that the citizens of Arizona understand that this is a conflict of interest,” Nguyen told The Federalist. “[Kelly] is voting for someone that works for him and his wife’s Giffords Foundation — which is an anti-gun organization — and he is still employed. It is a conflict of interest in my opinion. We should know about it, we should understand it. The other thing I’m really bothered by is that the ATF has a possibility to be run by an anti-gun lobbyist.”

The nomination will head to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote Thursday. It will possibly end in a tie given the power-sharing agreement, which means committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., would have to transmit a notice.

Should a “motion to discharge” come about via the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and be denied, a day will be set for the nomination. Sources familiar with the matter say this could be in July.

In order to be confirmed, Chipman’s nomination will need 51 votes. Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote if the Senate splits across party lines.

“[T]he founding of the United States did not begin with the federal government, but rather with the states themselves,” the proclamation states. ” …[A]n agency of the federal government should never seek to expand the mission of an administrative state, much less seak to eliminate the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights.”

We “OPPOSE the confirmation of David Chipman as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” the document also states. “Chipman has established by his long career in anti-gun advocacy and lobbying that he is an ideologue for his radical cause and will not serve to uphold the Constitutional rights of Americans while in this office, but rather to erase rights to fit the radical gun control agenda of the groups he still works for and associates with to this day.”

Below is the final draft of the proclamation.

Legislative Proclamation – Mark Kelly Arizona by The Federalist on Scribd