Late last month, the FBI raided the home of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) as part of its “two-track investigation” into the congressman “regarding a land deal, as well as a piece of legislation he helped steer that may have improperly benefited a major campaign contributor.” The House Ethics Committee has signaled that it too may now investigate Renzi.
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.” Watch it:
Renzi also defended Murray’s phone call to Charlton’s office, even though calls from lawmakers and their staffs to U.S. attorneys about ongoing investigations are potentially illegal. “All he’s doing is calling the public relations department and saying what is this? What’s going on here? He left a message on a telephone machine,” he stated. Two other ousted U.S. attorneys — John McKay and David Iglesias — also received phone calls from federal lawmakers pressuring them on investigations.
He added that for “anyone to conjure up that this somehow affected Mr. Charlton being fired, is just political theater.”
HOST: The congressman admits that this has been a tough time for him, and he says he’s learning who his true friends are. But he’s also alleging that he’s a victim of a smear campaign by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In Washington, DC, where nobody is immune from scrutiny, Arizona’s third-term congressman, Rick Renzi, finds himself the focus of a public corruption investigation. He insists his role in a controversial land deal, was ethical.
RENZI: It was absolutely in the public interest. It was absolutely in the best interest of the state of Arizona.
HOST: Earlier this month, FBI investigators served a warrant at a southern Arizona insurance company owned by Renzi’s family. Investigators are reportedly looking at whether Renzi profited from a piece of land near Sierra Vista, linked to his legislation. The land is owned by former business partner James Sandlin.
RENZI: He’s a good friend, and a very honest man, a very competent man.
HOST: Renzi also went on the offensive, claiming the Department of Justice leaked lies about him and his father when he was up for re-election.
RENZI: And to make that up and put that out means the Department of Justice was engaged in electioneering and that needs to be investigated.
HOST: Renzi also responded to congressional testimony by former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton. Renzi’s chief of staff contacted Charlton’s office when news of the Renzi investigation first leaked out last fall.
RENZI: All he’s doing is calling the public relations department and saying what is this? What’s going on here? He left a message on a telephone machine. So for anyone to conjure up that this somehow affected Mr. Charlton being fired, is just political theater.