Monday, September 26, 2005

Michael: Rep. Rick Renzi Dinshonors Arizona

Rick Renzi has been named one of the 13 most corrupt members of Congress based on illegal financing of his 2002 campaign and conflicts of interest. This is important enough to reproduce the bill of particulars against Renzi in detail.

Via Beyond Delay (thanks to for the link):

Rick Renzi (R-AZ) is a second-term Member of Congress, representing the 1st district of Arizona. In addition to his position as a Member of Congress, Rep. Renzi maintains business and real estate interests. Rep. Renzi’s ethics issues stem from the illegal financing of his 2002 congressional campaign and from legislation he sponsored that benefitted his father.

Illegal Financing of His 2002 Campaign

Use of Corporate Contributions

In 2004, the Federal Election Commission ("FEC") concluded an audit (.PDF) of Rep. Renzi’s campaign committee, Rick Renzi for Congress ("RRFC"), and found that the committee had illegally financed much of the Congressman’s 2002 election campaign. The FEC found that, based on the documentation submitted by RRFC, $369,090 of the loans were made using impermissible corporate funds.

Misstatement s of Financial Activity

In addition, when RRFC’s reported activity was compared to its bank records, the FEC's Audit staff found that, for the 2002 calendar year, receipts, disbursements and cash on hand had been misstated. The Audit staff found that RRFC had understated its receipts by $37,539, its disbursements by $101,105, and had overstated its cash on hand by $63,566.

Failure to Itemize Contributions

Political committees must itemize every contribution from any political committee, regardless of the amount, and every transfer from another political party committee. The Audit staff reviewed all of the contributions RRFC received from political committees and found that it had failed to itemize 13 such contributions totaling $20,745. RRFC offered no explanation for this failure.

Failure to Disclose Transfers

After receiving proceeds of a joint fundraiser, each participating committee must report its share of net proceeds received as a transfer from the fundraising representative and its share of gross receipts from each contributor as memo entries. RRFC failed to report that it received three transfers totaling $134,495 from The Leadership Committee, which RRFC has claimed as an affiliated committee with a relationship as a fundraising representative.

Disclosure of Name and Employer of Contributor

For each itemized contribution from an individual, political committees must provide the contributor’s full name, address, occupation, employer, the date of receipt of the contribution, the amount of the contribution, and the election cycle-to-date total of all contributions from the same individual. After reviewing all the contributions of over $200 made to RRFC, the Audit staff identified 200 contributions totaling $132,811 from 159 contributors that did not have the occupation and/or name of employer properly disclosed.

The severity of Rep. Renzi’s campaign finance violations suggests that not only the FEC, but the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct should investigate this matter. Rule 23 of the House Ethics Manual requires all members of the House to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House." Absent the influx of illegal corporate dollars, Rep. Renzi might not have won election to Congress. The FEC audit was not conducted until late 2004 and, to date, there has been no known enforcement action against Rep. Renzi or his campaign committee. Thus, Rep. Renzi was able to violate the law, get elected to Congress and remain unpunished. Should the FEC ever engage in an enforcement action, the worst Rep. Renzi is likely to suffer is a fine – a small penalty to pay once elected to federal office.

Rep. Renzi Sponsored Legislation Financially Benefitting His Father

In 2003, Rep. Renzi sponsored legislation (signed into law in November 2003) that dealt hundreds of millions of dollars to his father’s business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River. The provision exempted the Army’s Fort Huachuca base in Sierra Vista, Arizona 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. Rep. Renzi claimed he introduced the measure to prevent the closing of the Fort and to promote its enlargement. Notably, neither the fort nor the river is located in Rep. Renzi’s district.

A key beneficiary of Rep. Renzi’s legislation was ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Virginia based defense contractor where Rep. Renzi’s father, Retired Major General Eugene Renzi, is an executive vice president. ManTech had $467 million in contracts at 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, Arizona, was the largest contributor to Renzi’s 2002 congressional campaign and the second largest in his 2004 campaign.

If Rep. Renzi accepted campaign contributions from ManTech in exchange for pushing through legislation benefitting the company, he would be in violation of 18 U.S.C. §201(b)(2)(A).

Members of the House are prohibited from taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else. In addition, House conflict-of-interest rules provide that a Member should never accept "benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance" of his official duties. To do so "would raise the appearance of undue influence or breach of the public trust."

Finally, Rule 23 of the House Ethics Manual requires all members of the House to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House." By pushing legislation which stood to financially benefit his father, Rep. Renzi may have run afoul of House conflict-of-interest rules and engaged in conduct that does not reflect creditably on the House. As a result, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct should investigate this matter further.

I feel so proud to know that we have such an upstanding, honest and open public servant such as Rick Renzi representing Arizona. Unfotunately, most of the electorate is either so ignorant or so indolent that Renzi will likely never be punished for his mendacity - statistically, he isn't even likely to lose his seat over these improprieties. As such, Renzi should be the poster child of the ineffectuality of late-stage American democracy.

Of course, I could be wrong. Please, people, prove me terribly wrong.


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