Republican Rep. Rick Renzi has been indicted for extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other charges related to a land deal in Arizona.
A 26-page federal indictment unsealed in Arizona accuses Renzi and two former business partners of conspiring to promote the sale of land that buyers could swap for property owned by the federal government. The sale netted one of Renzi’s former partners $4.5 million.
Update: The charges boil down to this, basically. Renzi (who’s already said he won’t seek re-election) is charged with doing everything he can as a congressman to strong-arm others into buying land from his buddy James Sandlin — Sandlin then allegedly kicked back sizable chunks of cash back to Renzi in a series of complicated financial transactions (thus the money laundering charge). The main details of these charges were reported by the Arizona papers and The Wall Street Journal last year.
Update: Yikes. In a completely separate matter, the indictment charges Renzi with a conspiracy to “embezzle and misappropriate client premiums [from his insurance company] to fund his congressional campaign.”
Update: It’s worth recalling that the Renzi case played a small role in the U.S. attorneys’ firings scandal. One of the fired U.S. attorneys was Arizona’s Paul Charlton. The investigation dates way back to June of 2005, but it did not surface publicly under shortly before the 2006 midterm elections. Renzi’s people, obviously, weren’t happy, and an aide to Renzi put in a call to Charlton (who in turn reported the contact to the Justice Department leadership).
And the Wall Street Journal later reported that investigators and prosecutors in Arizona had been frustrated with senior Justice Department officials’ general reluctance to pursue the investigation. The thrust of the piece was that the investigation had been slow-rolled in the run-up to the election.
Update: Renzi is, at least for the time being, a co-chair of John McCain’s Arizona Leadership Team (he’s one of 24 co-chairs). One imagines he won’t be such a public advocate for McCain this election.