I've been having to post every so often stories about the ethical lapses of my Congressman, Rick Renzi. Renzi of course is still trying to get enough people here to do what his wife can't do-- vote for him (Mrs. Renzi is still living in the same Burke, Virginia home where the Renzis have lived for a decade. But don't worry, 'Mr. family values' still lives there too-- his house in Flagstaff is purely for show.)
Anyway, a new scandal has popped up, and it has to do with how Renzi found the big bucks he needed to buy a Congressional seat in 2002. As a Virginian with no real roots in the district, Renzi had to defeat Navajo County councilman Louis Tenney and several other candidates to win the 2002 Republican primary. He then had to beat George Cordova to win the general election that year. In order to do it, he had to have a lot of money very fast.
So where did it come from? Well, the answer appeared last week in the Phoenix New Times. Only, he was apparently trying to pay it back-- out of the Federal till.
Congressman Rick Renzi was poised to push congressional legislation involving a former business partner's land — but says that he washed his hands of the deal after a lobbyist questioned their ties....
Renzi, who is currently running for a third term representing a district that stretches from Flagstaff to southeast Arizona, sold off a half-interest in his real estate investment business to a fellow investor, Sandlin, just before filing to run for Congress for the first time in 2002.
Sandlin paid $200,000 cash. And within months, Renzi plowed all his profits into his congressional campaign — an infusion that allowed Renzi to outspend his opponents and squeak into office with 49 percent of the vote.
Once he got into office, Renzi sold his remaining interest in the company to Sandlin, earning somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, according to public disclosure forms.
And that's why it seems like more than a coincidence that, last October, Renzi publicly announced that he'd be proposing legislation that would include Sandlin's acreage in a land swap. Sandlin sold the acreage to a group of experienced swappers a week later, records show, for what appears to be considerably more than he paid for it, though he insists he could have gotten more.
Incidentally, I can also tell you where some of the remaining cash went. During his 2002 campaign, Renzi ran ads against Cordova in which he claimed that Cordova had misrepresented the nature of a business account to several of his business partners, embezzled funds minutes after they put it in and wired it to his uncle in Mexico. Aside from being a slick way to play the race card (letting people know that Cordova had an uncle in Mexico) what Renzi claimed was a lie. Period. And people who thought it through realized that, or do now, since if it were true then Cordova would be guilty of fraud, embezzlement, and then of Federal racketeering charges for sending it out of the country. But Cordova is a free man today because none of it was true. He is also a rich man today. That's because after the election Cordova sued Renzi for slander over the commercials. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money. Well, Renzi had it, so he could spend it. He ended up with the real prize-- the seat in Congress.
The issue now is why, after already being on the dirty list for having illegally laundered $369,000 in corporate donations also in that 2002 campaign (as reported by the Federal Elections Commission), and having sponsored legislation to benefit his father's business, Renzi was stupid enough to propose late last year this land swap. Clearly it was a payback to Sandlin, who made a profit on it. Coming on top of all the other scandals (last month's I blogged on here) one has to conclude that Rick Renzi's primary interest in Congress is helping out himself, his family and his friends.
And that is one more reason to relieve him of having the distraction of having to visit Arizona now and then, so he can concentrate on spending more time at home with his family.