Congressman Rick Renzi, R-AZ, was today indicted for charges related to an allegedly corrupt federal land swap in Arizona:
John McCain said that Rep. Rick Renzi (R) would probably step down as co-chair of his Arizona campaign. McCain was unaware of the Arizona congressman's indictment until asked about it this morning after a town hall in Indianapolis, at which point he said that you always think about the family in these circumstances and he would look into Renzi's role in his campaign.
This has been a while in coming. The FBI raided Renzi's office in 2007 and it was widely assumed at the time that he would step down, although he's been protesting his innocence all along.
McCain, for his part, said you "always feel for the family" when incidents like this occur. (Funny, I didn't think this quite extended to the Republican Party, yet I know of other crime syndicates often referred to as "the family." It remains to be seen if Renzi is the latest in a string of drunken uncles at the reunion to be convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, extortion, insurance fraud, or criminal forfeiture - but this sure would sound like racketeering if this was a mobster being brought up on this particular billet of charges.)
We've sorta been through this with McCain already, haven't we? He sure knows how to choose his associates.
Renzi’s case was opened by former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, who was fired as part of the Bush administration’s purge. In Oct. 2006, word leaked to the media about the investigation. Renzi’s top aide, Brian Murray, then called Charlton’s spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle to inquire about the investigation. Such calls are highly improper and potentially illegal.
Yesterday in an interview with Phoenix’s KPNX, Renzi spoke for the first time since the FBI raid and said that he believes he is being smeared by the Justice Department. He refused to take any responsibility for the land deal, instead charging — without any evidence — that the leaks on the investigation were “lies.” He added that “to make that up and put that out means the Department of Justice was engaged in electioneering and that needs to be investigated.
But as we all know, US Attorneys "serve at the pleasure of the president." They're never like, targets of politically motivated firings or anything.
Wow... just... wow. Particulars.
Renzi, 49, who was first elected to the House in 2002, was charged along with James Sandlin, 56, a real estate investor and one of his political backers, and Andrew Beardall, 36, an attorney who had been general counsel of Renzi's family insurance business. Renzi and Beardall are accused of embezzling money from insurance clients to fund the lawmaker's congressional campaign.
The U.S. alleged that Renzi offered to sponsor legislation to help a company seeking to swap land with the federal government if it purchased property owned by Sandlin. Renzi, who sat on a committee that approved such deals, told the company in early 2005 that he wouldn't support the request if it didn't buy the land, according to the indictment. No deal was made.
Later, Renzi pressured a separate investment group, also looking for approval of a land exchange, to purchase the property, prosecutors said. That group agreed to buy 480 acres from Sandlin for $4.6 million in April 2005, the government said.
Renzi, according to the indictment, told the investment group it would have a ``free pass'' through his panel, the Natural Resources Committee.
While the land negotiations were under way, according to court papers, Sandlin owed Renzi $700,000. Renzi was having financial difficulties as well, the government said.
Renzi also failed to publicly disclose Sandlin's debt and its repayment after the land sale, according to the indictment.
The lawmaker and attorney Beardall were charged with conspiring to steal more than $400,000 from Renzi's insurance business from December 2001 through June 2003. The money was used to fund Renzi's campaign for Congress, according to court papers.
The 35-count indictment, issued in Arizona, includes charges of conspiracy, money laundering, insurance fraud and wire fraud.
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