There is news regarding the ongoing investigations involving my congressman, Rick Renzi. I say that in the plural because they were reported originally as two separate investigations. One was reported as Renzi using his office to steer Federal dollars to his father's company, and the other as Renzi arranging a land swap with James Sandlin in an influence peddling scheme as he quickly raised money to run for Congress in 2002. As I blogged in October, these two investigations may be one complicated one.
The news is that U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton, who is handling the Renzi investigation, is leaving his position to join the Phoenix based law firm of Kennedy and Gallagher in January.
In that position, he will join his wife, and not coincidentally earn quite a bit more money in all likelihood than he was earning as a U.S. Attorney.
Charlton, though I know some people who don't like him, has always impressed me. Maybe it's because I remember his investigation into Valinda Jo Elliot after the Rodeo Chedeski fire had destroyed hundreds of homes; Elliott had started the Chedeski half as a signal fire after being lost in the woods following a vehicle breakdown. Elliott took her cell phone, and had reached some stupid person with a clerk mentality with the Bureau of Land Management; they figured out where she was and informed her that since she was over the line in the national forest she had to call the national forest headquarters. The HQ of course had long since been evacuated because of the nearby Rodeo fire and the national forest was closed, so Elliott got a recorded message. Then her cell ran out of power after having been put on hold for so long by automated machines between the two calls. Anyway, Charlton was the guy who was willing to go to Heber after the Chedeski fire and face an auditorium full of enraged people and tell them that he wasn't going to prosecute Valinda Jo Elliott (which was the right call by the way; if anyone should have been prosecuted it was the one person she actually talked to, the clerk with the ultimate 'that's not my department,' mentality even while talking to a desperate person in a life and death emergency.)
There could be more to this than meets the eye though. Remember Noel Hillman? He was the prosecutor assigned to investigating the Jack Abramoff case. Hillman was doing such a good job that the Bush administration had to find a way to deal with that. They appointed him to the Federal Bench, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that most prosecutors dream about but never get the call for.
And now suddenly Paul Charlton gets a phone call offering him a lucrative position where he can work with his wife. You have to wonder what he was working on in regard to Rick Renzi when that call came through.
Well, maybe there is something to be said for investigating allies of the Bush administration. It can be a great career boost, when they decide it's time to buy you out.