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Richard George "Rick" Renzi (born June 11, 1958) was an Americanmarker politician and was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives representing .

Renzi has pending Federal criminal charges against him for his involvement in a land-swap deal. On April 19, 2007, the FBImarker raided his family business, and he temporarily resigned from the House Intelligence Committee. On April 27 Renzi denied printed claims he was considering resigning office; however, on August 23, Renzi announced he would not be a candidate for re-election in 2008. On February 22, 2008, Renzi was indicted on 35 counts connected to land deals. He pled not guilty.

According to the Congress.org 2008 Power Ranking, Renzi was the least influential Representative.

Early life, education, and family

Renzi was born to an Italian-American family in Fort Monmouth, New Jerseymarker. He attended high school in Annandale, Virginiamarker, before moving to Sierra Vista, Arizonamarker, in 1975, where his father, now-retired U.S. Army Major General Eugene Renzi, served at Fort Huachuca. Renzi graduated from Buena High School and then attended Northern Arizona Universitymarker, receiving a B.S. in criminal justice in 1980. Renzi played football for NAU and was a starting offensive lineman.

Renzi's father was the executive vice president of Mantech International, a company providing information technology services to a number of intelligence and defense-related federal government agencies.

Renzi and his wife Roberta are the parents of 12 children, the most of any member of Congress. Additionally, all of his children have first names that begin with the letter R.

Career prior to Congress

In 1989, Renzi started Renzi & Company (now called the Patriot Insurance Agency), a company that offers insurance to nonprofit organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers, pregnancy care clinics, maternity homes, PTAs, PTOs, and local service organizations. In 2006, Renzi said that he decided to enter politics because of his experiences as a member of National Association of Professional Insurance Agents. Renzi was a property/casualty agent and a member of PIA of Virginia & D.C. He said his first taste of the political process was attending a PIA Federal Legislative Summit. "I had a chance to interact with a lot of the congressmen and Senators, and I fell in love with it", Renzi said.

Where Renzi lived and what he did in the 1986–1997 period is unclear. In a letter to the Arizona Daily Sun in July 2002, Renzi said "The only time I have not lived in Arizona is when I served our nation overseas on a Defense Department program, or when I entered law school at age 39" [which would be 1997 or 1998]. But according to an August 2002 Associated Press article, Renzi said that between college, starting in the late 1970s, and his return some 20 years later, he had lived in Flagstaff for only a total of seven years. The AP article also said "Renzi made much of his money while living in Burke, Virginiamarker, about 20 minutes from downtown Washington. He has owned a $765,000 two-story, six-bedroom home on five acres there since 1991, according to Fairfax County, Virginiamarker, property records."

In 1997 or 1998, Renzi began to take law courses at the The Catholic University of Americamarker in Washington D.C. He finished his coursework in December 2001 and graduated with a J.D. in 2002. While he was studying law, he was also an unpaid intern in Senator Jon Kyl's office for two months in 1999, and in 2001 he spent several months as an unpaid intern for Representative Jim Kolbe.

U.S. House of Representatives

Move to Arizona

Renzi moved his official residence from Virginia to Arizona in 1999, registering to vote in Santa Cruz Countymarker. In 2001, he bought a $216,000 home in Flagstaffmarker, moving his voting registration there in December of that year.

In 2002, Renzi acknowledged that he returned to Arizona with the intention of running for Congress, but defended his state ties. He noted that between college and his return to Arizona, he lived in Flagstaff for a total of seven years. Renzi also said he owned more than in northern Arizona through a real estate development and improvement business, in addition to a small vineyard and ranch in Sonoita, Arizonamarker, west of Sierra Vistamarker, in the 8th congressional district, and a home in Kingman. During the campaign, Renzi said "Let the chips fall where they may if I'm a carpetbagger."

2002 election

Primary election

Renzi won a hotly contested Republican primary election against five other candidates; his closest opponents were Lewis Noble Tenney, a former Navajo Countymarker supervisor, and conservative radio personality Sydney Ann Hay of Munds Parkmarker. Renzi outspent his primary opponents by a substantial sum of money. He invested $585,000 of his own money and raised another $100,000 to run radio and TV ads throughout the district. Renzi received 24.4 percent of the 46,585 votes cast in the Republican primary, with half of his votes coming from Yavapai Countymarker.

The 2002 Democratic primary, also hotly contested, was narrowly won by George Cordova, a party outsider who ran against several better-known candidates supported by the Democratic National Committee. (There was no incumbent for the seat, in a new district created after the 2000 census gave the state two more Representatives.)

General election

Renzi received significant support from the national Republican party in the race: President Bush visited twice, including a fundraiser; Vice President Cheney appeared at a fund-raising luncheon; Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton visited the district to support Renzi; and so did Mel Martinez, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Developmentmarker.

The campaign included the heavy use of negative advertising attacking Cordova, including accusing him of cheating investors out of $1 million in a failed business venture, failing to pay income and business taxes, and living in California. Cordova denied the charges but had no funds to buy many television ads to refute them. The Renzi campaign also made heavy use of automated telephone calls throughout the district with various claims and innuendos about Cordova. Renzi said of the $2 million spent on negative ads, that he "took no joy in any of that." Renzi said he had tried to tell the National Republican Congressional Committee that the negative ads were the wrong way to go.

During the 2002 election campaign, Renzi proposed that Walnut Canyon National Monumentmarker in Northern Arizona be renamed the "National Park of the American Flag" with the addition an American flag theme to the park, including displays of U.S. flags throughout history. This was in response to proposals by local citizens that Walnut Canyon National Monument be expanded and given National Park status. Renzi's proposal was widely ridiculed, and he has not promoted it since.

On election day, Renzi defeated Cordova by 49 percent to 46 percent, a difference of about 6,000 votes.

Campaign finances

Renzi spent $436,590 of his own money on the election. In addition to large donations from his father's defense company, Mantech International, Mantech executives were the largest single source of outside money for the campaign.

In 2004, the Federal Election Commission completed an audit of Renzi's campaign committee, "Rick Renzi for Congress." The audit found that Renzi's campaign overstated its cash on hand by about $64,000, and that employers or occupations for 200 contributors were not listed, though required by law. The FEC also concluded that the committee had illegally financed much of the campaign with $369,090 of loans that came from "impermissible" corporate funds. Most of those loans were part of the $436,000 that Renzi put into his own campaign. Renzi was fined $1,000 in November 2005 by the FEC for underreported receipts stemming from what his campaign called a software glitch. During the summer before the 2006 election, the FEC dropped all charges related to the 2002 alleged use of impermissible corporate funds for his campaign.

2004 re-election

In preparation for the 2004 campaign, the Democratic Party in Arizona tapped Paul Babbitt, Coconino Countymarker commissioner and the brother of Bruce Babbitt, to run for the seat and pressured all other candidates with the exception of political unknown Bob Donahue to bow out of the primary in order to clear the way for Babbitt to run against Renzi without a costly primary contest. Paul Babbitt's campaign was named a top national priority by most major Democratic fundraisers and liberal weblogs, because a plurality of Arizona 1st Congressional District voters are registered Democrats and because Renzi won so narrowly in 2002. Unlike the Cordova campaign in 2002, which received only token support from the national Democratic Party organizations, the Babbitt campaign received major support; nonetheless, it was unable to match Renzi's fundraising.

2006 re-election

Renzi faced no opposition from his own party in the Republican primary. Five Democratic Party candidates, including Bob Donahue, Mike Caccioppoli, Susan Friedman, Ellen Simon, and Vic McKerlie, ran in the 2006 primary in September, which was won by Ellen Simon, an attorney and community activist. David Schlosser was also in the November general election on the Libertarian Party ticket.

Renzi won his re-election against Simon, 52% to 44%.

On August 23, 2007, Renzi announced he would not seek another term.

Issues and positions

In 2002, in response to a question about spiraling health care costs, Renzi said "In order to keep health insurance costs competitive, we must allow the self-employed to take annual tax deductions for their health-care costs. We must change the health insurance industry by allowing employees to purchase their own health-care policy. This would allow for personal ownership of health-care policies, which would provide portability, more choice and thus more competition, which leads to lower health-care premiums."

Renzi was named one of the American Legion's "Unsung Heroes" of the 108th Congress. American Legion National Commander John Brieden noted that "The 108th Congress passed a record increase in Department of Veterans Affairs health care funding for the current fiscal year, and it reduced the number of service-disabled military retirees subject to a 'disability tax' on their retired pay." Brieden said "I commend Representative Renzi for taking a leadership role in making that happen."

In 2004, Renzi and Representative Jon Porter introduced legislation to split the Ninth Circuit court, currently the largest circuit in the U.S., which includes Arizona, into three smaller circuits. John Ensign of Nevada introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

Renzi was generally a supporter of expanded legal immigration into the United States and supported expansion of guest worker programs and the H1B visa. He did strongly support using technology to enforce border security.

In June 2006, the House accepted an amendment proposed by Renzi to increase tribal law enforcement funding by $5 million and decrease spending for international organizations such as the United Nations by the same amount.

On December 14, 2005, he voted for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. On June 29, 2005, he voted for the increase of funds by $25 million for anti-marijuana print and TV ads.

Controversies

In September 2006, Renzi was named one of the "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress" in a report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan watchdog group founded in 2005 by former Democratic congressional staffers. Renzi was also listed in the first report by the organization in January 2006, when he was one of 13 named members. The organization said "His ethics issues stem from the outside income earned by his administrative assistant and from legislation he sponsored that benefitted his father."

Father's company

Renzi has been criticized for consistently introducing and voting in favor of bills benefiting his father's defense company, ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Virginiamarker,-based defense contractor. Until his death in February 2008, Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, was an executive vice president of the firm. ManTech had $467 million in contracts at the Army's Fort Huachuca with options for an additional $1.1 billion between 2004 through 2008. In addition, the company, which has an office in Sierra Vista, Arizonamarker, was the largest contributor to Renzi’s 2002 congressional campaign and the second largest in his 2004 campaign.

In 2003, Renzi sponsored legislation (signed into law in November 2003) that put hundreds of millions of dollars to Eugene's business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. The provision exempted Fort Huachuca, in Sierra Vista, Arizonamarker, from maintaining water levels in the San Pedro River as called for in an agreement made in 2002 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Renzi claimed he introduced the measure to prevent the closing of the Fort and to promote its enlargement. Neither the fort nor the river is located in Renzi’s Congressional district.

On October 25, 2006, just two weeks before Election Day, The New York Times reported that federal authorities have opened an inquiry into the case. According to the Times, the "officials said the inquiry was at an early stage and that no search warrants had been issued, suggesting that investigators had yet to determine whether there was a basis to open a formal investigation or empanel a grand jury." Federal investigators in Arizona said they faced unexplained delays in gaining approval from Washington to use certain investigative tactics in the year before the 2006 election.

On April 19, 2007, the FBImarker raided his family business, and he temporarily resigned from the House Intelligence Committee.

On February 22, 2008, Renzi was indicted on multiple federal charges as a result of the investigation.

2005 land swap

According to the Phoenix New Times, in 2002 Renzi sold off a half-interest in his real estate investment business to a fellow investor, James Sandlin, for $200,000. Renzi used the money for his 2002 congressional campaign. In 2003, Renzi sold the remainder of the business to Sandlin, for somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, according to financial records, retaining a "future development interest".

In October 2005, three years after the business transaction with Sandlin, Renzi announced he'd be introducing a bill in Congress that would include a swap of land owned by Sandlin (not in Renzi's district) for federal land near Florence, Nevada. A week after Renzi's announcement, Sandlin sold his land for $4.5 million, a much higher price than he paid for it.

Renzi told the New Times that he did nothing wrong and that sometime after his announcement he recused himself from the bill after a lobbyist's questioned his connection to Sandlin. The land swap never became law.

In 2007 news came of another $200,000 payment that Sandlin made to Renzi, this one in 2005, that Renzi failed to report on financial disclosure forms.

On October 24, 2006, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. attorney's office in Arizona has opened an investigation into the land swap deal. The US Attorney for Arizona, Paul Charlton, had initiated the investigation in September 2006.

John Wilke in the Wall Street Journal writes,

"That investigation has now become a formal public-corruption probe by a federal grand jury in Tucsonmarker. On Thursday, the grand jury authorized a search warrant of a Renzi family business. Investigators have uncovered evidence that Mr. Renzi received a cash payment from his former business partner, funneled through a family wine company, after a second investor group pursuing an unrelated land swap agreed to pay $4 million for the alfalfa field, according to people contacted in the course of the two-year investigation.


Mr. Renzi denies any wrongdoing and says that he intends to cooperate with the investigation. The search of the family business, he said in a statement Friday, is "the first step toward getting the truth out." His lawyer says the cash payment he received was to settle an unrelated debt.


The case could add fuel to the firestorm over the Bush administration's firing of federal prosecutors late last year. Paul Charlton, the U.S. Attorney who had been overseeing the case, was among those dismissed at the behest of the White Housemarker. A spokesman for Mr. Renzi dismissed as "a political hatchet job" the suggestion that Mr. Charlton's firing was connected to the probe of Mr. Renzi. On Thursday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Congress that none of the dismissals were politically motivated, and said the Justice Department is committed to battling corruption."


On February 22, 2008, a Federal Grand Jury in Arizona handed up a 35-count indictment charging with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering extortion and insurance fraud.

Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy

After the land swap controversy was revealed, an unnamed official from the US Department of Justicemarker cautioned the media not to jump to conclusions regarding the inquiry into Renzi, saying it "is not a well-developed investigation, by any means. A tip comes into the department. The department is obligated to follow up ... and we do that. People are assuming there is evidence of some crime," even though that is not necessarily true. The official added, "Be careful. I can confirm to you a very early investigation. But I want to caution you not to chop this guy's (Renzi's) head off."

According to the Arizona Republic, "The federal official would not discuss whether the Justice Department was being manipulated for political purposes. However, the official said it is unusual for the department to publicly acknowledge concerns about the accuracy of media reports." In the same story, the official said the Justice Department contacted at least two newspapers about "chunks of stuff in their stories that's wrong."

Shortly after initiating the investigation of Renzi, the US Attorney for Arizona, Paul Charlton, was added to a list of US attorneys the Justice Department wanted to remove, in an effort that would become the dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy. In February 2005, Charlton had been on the "retain" list of Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez's chief of staff, but "by September of 2006 — after it became clear that Charlton had launched an investigation of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz, — Sampson included the Arizona prosecutor on another list of U.S. attorneys 'we now should consider pushing out.'" Sampson made the comment in a September 13, 2006, letter to then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

On March 19, 2007, the White House released 3,000 pages of records connected to the controversy, including emails sent by Charlton to the Justice Department about his dismissal. On December 21, 2006, Charlton sent a message to Bill Mercer, the third-ranking official in the department, writing, "Media now asking if I was asked to resign over leak in Congressman Renzi investigation." Charlton never received a response.

The Wall Street Journal explained further allegations: that the Department of Justicemarker intentionally delayed part of the investigation of Renzi until after the November 2006 election. They wrote:
The delays, which postponed key approvals in the case until after the election, raise new questions about whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or other officials may have weighed political issues in some investigations....

Investigators pursuing the Renzi case had been seeking clearance from senior Justice Department officials on search warrants, subpoenas and other legal tools for a year before the election, people close to the case said....

...the investigation clearly moved slowly: Federal agents opened the case no later than June 2005, yet key witnesses didn't get subpoenas until early this year, those close to the case said. The first publicly known search — a raid of a Renzi family business by the Federal Bureau of Investigation — was[n't] carried out [until April 2007]....


Further, the Journal noted that investigators had lobbied Washington for clearance to tap Renzi's phone for months. That clearance was only given in October 2006, but unfortunately for the investigators, word broke of the investigation soon after, disrupting their wiretap.

On April 24, 2007, Renzi stepped down from the House Financial Services and Natural Resources committees, as more revelations connected him to the U.S. attorneys controversy. During that afternoon, Paul Charlton, the US Attorney from Arizona who was one of those fired, related to a House investigators that Brian Murray, Renzi's top aide, called Charlton spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle shortly after news of Renzi's investigation became public, asking for information on the case. Charlton, in turn, notified the Department of Justice about the call. Justice, in turn, had not previously notifed Congress of the contact.

Employment of Patty Roe

In December 2005, Renzi hired Patty Roe, the wife of Jason Roe, the chief of staff of Representative Tom Feeney (R-FL), as his full-time administrative assistant. In that position, she is paid $95,000 per year. Renzi also pays her $5,000 per month ($60,000 per year) as a fundraising consultant (she ran her own consulting business before being hired by Renzi).

To be in compliance with the rules, Roe must be doing all her fundraising work before she clocks in to work as Renzi's administrative assistant, or after she checks out, and she can't make or receive a single fundraising-related call in her House office. Renzi's spokesman Vartan Djihanian said that this is the case: "Whatever fundraising she does," he said, "is on her time."

Roe also received about $30,000 in fundraising fees in 2006 from four other House members: Tom Feeney; Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, both of Florida; and Patrick McHenry of North Carolina. Renzi's office said those payments were for services rendered in 2005. There is no evidence that Roe's activities are not in compliance with House ethics standards.

Reported floor fight

Renzi was an opponent of embryonic stem cell research. In May 2005, he engaged in an argument on the House floor with Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL). The argument ensued after Renzi had learned that Kirk and the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership commissioned secret polling in the districts of Renzi and other members of Congress who oppose stem cell research. Renzi said, "I was yelling at him. I told him it's absolutely unprecedented that Republicans would pay for a push poll to attack another Republican on such a core belief of mine... You're not going to change my view on the issue, as a father of 12."

Funds from DeLay's PAC

Renzi also received $30,000 in campaign contributions from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ARMPAC.

Indictment

On February 22, 2008, Congressman Renzi was indicted on multiple federal charges. The charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering extortion and insurance fraud.. In October 2009, the government added a conspiracy to commit insurance fraud charge to the indictment. It alleged that Renzi and others willfully embezzled from a risk retention company called Spirit Mountain.

Electoral history

: Results 2002–2006
Year Democrat Votes Pct Republican Votes Pct 3rd party Party Votes Pct
2002 79,730 46% Rick Renzi 85,967 49% Edwin Porr Libertarian 8,990 5%
2004 Paul Babbitt 91,776 36% Rick Renzi 148,315 59% John Crockett Libertarian 13,260 5%
2006 Ellen Simon 88,691 43% Rick Renzi 105,646 52% David Schlosser Libertarian 9,802 5%

References

External links




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