Friday, April 20, 2007

FBI raids personal business of Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi.

From Roll Call:
By Susan Davis
Roll Call Staff
Thursday, April 19; 10:04 pm

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.
Richard "Rick" Renzi is the Republican Representative who represents Arizona's first Congressional District. He was first elected in 2002, and appears precocious in that he has been under federal investigation for corruption since at least October 2006.

The business that was raided was the Patriot Insurance Agency. This is the insurance agency originally started by Rick Renzi (as Renzi & Company) and which has been listed as belonging to his wife since Renzi became a Congressman. Since Rep. Renzi and his wife have 13 children, I wonder how much time she has to actually operate the business.

Interesting facts about Rep. Renzi include the fact that his father is a retired Major General who is presently the executive vice president of Mantech International. This is a firm which provides information technology services to a number of intelligence and defense-related federal government agencies. Ft. Huachuca, Arizona is the home of the Army's Intelligence School. Roll Call also states that Rep. Renzi has stepped down from the House Intelligence Panel. According to Congressopedia Rep. Renzi was a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the 109th Congress (2005 & 2006.)

The website Beyond DeLay describes Rep. Renzi's possibly corrupt actions using his power as a Congressman to enrich his family like this:
In 2003, Rep. Renzi sponsored legislation that dealt hundreds of millions of dollars to his father’s business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. A key beneficiary of Rep. Renzi’s legislation was ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia based defense contractor where Rep. Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, is an executive vice president. The company, which has an office in Sierra Vista, Arizona, was the largest contributor to Renzi’s 2002 congressional campaign and the second largest in his 2004 campaign.

If Rep. Renzi accepted campaign contributions from ManTech in exchange for pushing through legislation benefiting the company, he would be in violation of federal bribery laws. His actions on behalf of his father may have also violated conflict-of-interest rules and the requirement that
Members of the House conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”
Wikipedia also states that he was involved in the US attorney purge. Paul Charlton, US Attorney for Arizona, was on of those fired by DoJ on December 7, 2006. NPR has this story on Paul Charlton.
Paul Charlton of Phoenix, Ariz. — Charlton said he resigned over policy disputes. Moschella says Charlton disagreed with Justice Department guidelines on the death penalty and the tape-recording of FBI interviews.
The reason for firing Paul Charlton that has gotten the most press appears to be his pressure on the DoJ to get permission to tape record confessions, since he was losing convictions because of the absence of such recordings. The Phoenix Business Journal does point out that
Congressional Democrats have expressed concern over the reasons behind the ousters. Charlton's office was looking into Flagstaff Congressman Rick Renzi's involvement with a real estate deal and former Tucson Congressmen Jim Kolbe's interaction with male pages.
The coincidence that Charlton's name was added in October 2006 to Sampson's list of US attorneys to be fired is suspicious. October is when reports that Charlton was investigating Renzi's apparently corrupt activities reached the newspapers.

This may well be another case in which the firing of the local US attorney was conducted in order to protect a Republican Congressman from a corruption investigation. It is not clear to me from the media reports that this is the case, however. That could well be because Arizona is not a place that a lot of national reporters visit much, and local reporters simply aren't digging real deeply into the national aspects of the local story. If that's the case then the raid on Rep. Renzi's Insurance Agency will quickly change the motivations of local reporters.

The website Beyond Delay is a product of the investigations of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). It is their report on the twenty most corrupt Representatives and Senators, plus five who don't quit meet the requirements to be on the list. The list does not appear to have been updates since the election of 2006, since at least five on the list of twenty were not reelected - or in Sen. Frist's case, did not run for reelection.

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