Wednesday, May 02, 2007



yes, yes, boys; plenty for everybody

Last week, one could have made a great deal of money betting against the prevailing sentiment that Rick Renzi was resigning from his House seat amid an FBI raid and a cascade of allegations of bribery and scandal. Everyone jumped to the conclusion that just because the Feds are readying a prison cell for him, he was about to resign. There's virtually no chance of that. His House Republican colleagues have kicked him off all his committees and dumped him from their re-election program but there are a couple of major advantages to going through his trials and tribulations as Congressman Rick Renzi rather than as Rick Renzi, another disgraced ex-Republicrook. Two of his buddies now residing in federal penitentiaries, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Bob Ney, uused resignation as a bargaining chip when they eventually-- as Renzi will-- plead guilty and begged for short prison sentences. And, perhaps more important, non-congressmen "must pay lawyers out of their own pockets or turn for help to a public defender, but members of Congress can use campaign funds to hire a dream team of defense attorneys. As of March 31, Renzi has only $80,561 on hand. Given his legal predicament, he'll burn through that in a couple of months. From a fiscal (if not moral) standpoint, he'd be wise to stick around and see what other funds he can raise." He need only turn to 3 former GOP congressmen currently embroiled in costly legal battles to stay out of prison, each using gigantic amounts of campaign dollars for their defsense: child molesters Mark Foley (R-FL) and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and pay-for-play daddy Curt Weldon (R-PA).

So Kolbe has announced he plans to "tough it out" and keep his seat, even though the local Republican-oriented media back in his district is pointing out that his effectiveness in representing Arizona is shot to hell. "Renzi appears to be quickly losing his ability to serve his constituents as his Washington colleagues withdraw their support and prominent Democrats and Republicans begin lining up to run in a special election if he does step down."

The news from back home has been all pretty bad for Renzi. Today's Arizona Republic brings up a damaging new wrinkle in his tale of corruption and gross malfeasance. "Renzi paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes while settling charges that his businesses improperly financed his first campaign for office, according to documents released Tuesday by federal regulators. The Arizona Republican already faces a federal corruption inquiry over allegations that he tried to use legislation for land swaps in Arizona to help a former business partner. He also is facing a growing political crisis, which could include interest by the House ethics committee. Tuesday's disclosure by the Federal Election Commission threatens to revive the older scandal over whether Renzi broke campaign finance laws when first elected in 2002."

And he's not getting any solace from his adopted home Inside the Beltway. Yesterday's Hill was pretty devastating too:
Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) took out a $500,000 second mortgage on his Flagstaff home in January after paying more than $300,000 in tax arrears discovered by a Federal Election Commission (FEC) investigation.

The mortgage loan, revealed by Renzi in a document filed with Coconino County, Ariz., is worth the highest possible listed value of his house, and suggests the embattled lawmaker may have faced a substantial cash squeeze at the end of the last Congress... The half-million dollar loan on the Renzi residence at 2063 Raintree Road came on top of a $100,000-$250,000 mortgage he took out on the same property in 2005.

It may also cast light on $200,000 that came to Renzi two years ago from a business partner. The money exchange has raised eyebrows and suggestions of impropriety.

Around the time Renzi accepted the payment, the FEC launched an investigation of his campaign finances, forcing the lawmaker and his wife to pay an extra $324,000 in federal and state taxes.

The FEC launched its investigation in May 2005 and informed two businesses linked to Renzi of the probe later that month. That same month, James Sandlin, a former business partner, gave Renzi $200,000, a payment now being investigated by the FBI, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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