Wednesday, May 28, 2008

John Shadegg's And Rick Renzi's Game Of Telephone-- The FBI Was Listening In


Arizona extremist John Shadegg has a hearing problem

The last time I posted a big story about extremist Arizona Republican kook John Shadegg I was immediately called by his attorneys threatening to sue me if I didn't take down a page from the book, Below The Beltway which accused him of bonking the then wife of then-Congressman Jon Christensen, Meredith Stewart Maxfield. The lawyers said they have sworn affidavits from the publisher, author and from poor Christenson claiming it never happened. I hope I don't hear from them again but it looks like Shadegg could be in trouble again.

He and recently indicted GOP congressman Rick Renzi have been engaging in some interesting phone connversations. And their game of telephone hasn't ended yet. I don't know what they were gabbing about but whatever it is the FBI haven't released the transcripts of the wiretaps yet.

Renzi, Shadegg's fellow Arizona Congressman, is accused of promising to support legislation authorizing a land deal that netted him more than $700,000. He was indicted in February on 35 criminal counts. He is not running for reelection and Blue America has endorsed progressive conservation activist Howard Shanker as his replacement.

Whatever Shadegg and Renzi chatted about, we know they weren't debating who would pay for a pork pizza after a hard day's "work"-- smoking cigars with the oil industry, Jack Abramoff and other lobbyists, corrupt land developers and money launderers.

We may never know now that Renzi is trying to toss 50 of the wiretapped phone conversation transcripts out of court. It's unknown who all the wiretaps covered, except that they covered Shadegg, who admitted to receiving an FBI wiretap notice as part of the Renzi investigation earlier this year.

Shadegg is the only member of Congress (so far) to admit being wiretapped by the FBI, a valiant effort to showboat innocence, but those walls of PR Jericho came tumbling down last week when The Hill reported that Renzi wants to exclude those phone calls from the trial.

What could be so important in that conversation to possibly exclude it from trial?

Perhaps Shadegg told Renzi not to worry, that he had been through similar ordeals; he was just better at masking them:

• He funneled money through his own Political Action Committee to get around campaign contribution limits and is facing a pending FEC complaint
• He funneled tens of thousands of dollars into his campaign from convicted money launderer Thomas Stewart and never gave it back
• He accepted campaign "donations" from SunCor and Steven Betts, a company and its owner, who has raised more than $100,000 for the McCain campaign in exchange for an Arizona land swap.
• He took $400,000 from the oil, gas, and energy sector in campaign "contributions" and blindly supports their corrupt agenda in Congress

Maybe Shadegg was involved in some business operations with Renzi? No idea. Maybe they were planning a fundraiser in Jack Abramoff's house? Who knows?

Oh yeah, the FBI knows and has a transcript. And Renzi is trying to exclude it from his trial. During an election year when Shadegg is facing a tough challenge from Democrat Bob Lord.

There may be even more to this tale.

On Feb. 12, 2008, Shadegg announced his retirement-- that he would not run for re-election.

On February 15th, he paid thousands of dollars to a researcher, Red Sky Group. It is common to pay researchers after receipt of the research. This was likely research on himself. He likely saw something in there that he did not want to face during re-election, which may explain the retirement just 72 hours before.

On February 20th, Shadegg was still retired, and he returned over $20,000 to some of his fat cat donors.

But then on February 22nd, he gets back into the race, after staging a dramatic charade attempting to make it appear that he was being dragged back into it by concerned citizens and colleagues.

So what did he find? Shady connections to Renzi? Something horrible connected to the money he returned quietly while he was retired? Another scandal like the one he threatened to sue me over if I mention again?

It could well be all of these, but none of it will matter. He's so out of touch with his own district and clearly not wanting to serve. Stick a fork in Shadegg. He's done. And what about McCain? He was asked to turn over documents regarding some of these shady land swaps in Arizona too. Marcy has the details at Emptywheel today.

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