Facing Scandal, Will Lawmaker Resign?

A little more than a week after the FBI raided a family business connected to Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., staffers and lawmakers privately speculate he could resign from Congress.

This week, Renzi stepped down from the committees to which he once belonged, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Financial Services Committee and the Natural Resources Committee. The moves fueled speculation the three-term congressman may soon depart Capitol Hill for good.

The Arizona lawmaker is reportedly under investigation for suspicions he accepted $200,000 from a business partner in exchange for using his official influence to compel the purchase of his partner's land at an inflated price.  Renzi has said he is innocent, and that the money was repayment for an old debt.


Renzi's fellow Republicans are urging him to resign, according to today's Phoenix Business Journal. The paper reports that anonymous sources say Renzi could step down as early as today. Renzi's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In addition to the questionable land deal, questions have been raised in the press about his top aide's decision to contact the U.S. attorney overseeing the investigation into his boss. Shortly after the aide got involved, investigators now say Justice Department officials slowed efforts to investigate the congressman. 

Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

The U.S. attorney who had been overseeing the investigation, Paul Charlton, later became one of the eight top prosecutors fired under questionable circumstances in what has become known as the U.S. attorney scandal. Charlton's lawyer, Grant Woods, has called the reports "conjecture and false attacks." The Justice Department has denied meddling in the investigation.

If Renzi stays in office, he may face a separate inquiry from the House Ethics Committee connected to the federal probe. The congressman apparently failed to report the $200,000 income on his financial disclosure reports, as experts believe is required by law. An ethics committee aide recently reviewed Renzi's financial disclosures, according to information kept on file by the House of Representatives.  The aide did not respond to an inquiry from ABC News.

If Renzi were to resign, he would be the first scandal-enmeshed lawmaker to do so since former Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, quit his office in early November 2006.  Ney resigned only after a court convicted him on two felony counts connected to the Jack Abramoff scandal.

This post has been revised.

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...