I won't even pretend to hide my delight at the news of Dick Renzi's long-anticipated indictment. There was a strong appearance of political interference by the White House to stave off Renzi's just deserts by firing Arizona USA Paul Charlton during the pendancy of his investigation of Renzi's dealings, so it is much to the credit of Diane Humetewa, the new Arizona USA, that she persevered and put this prosecution at the top of her agenda despite the obvious interest of the Bush Administration in making this matter go away.
Of course, that interest has become much more costly now that Bush's fingers were burned in the Attorney-gate scandal, and the benefit of continuing to support Renzi's criminal lifestyle had diminished markedly once the GOP was no longer fighting to maintain a majority in the House. These factors undoubtedly combined to give Humetewa the breathing room needed to do her job without undue political pressure. The very fact that such political considerations can even be contemplated to have been a factor in the prosecution of public corruption are just one more of the many damning indictments of this Administration and the ethics of the modern GOP.
“Among the allegations contained in the indictment, Congressman Renzi misused his public office by forcing a land sale that would financially benefit himself and a business associate, and in so doing, he betrayed the trust of the citizens of Arizona,” stated U.S. Attorney Diane J. Humetewa. Here's Humetewa's press conference presenting the indictment:
Learn more about the indictment and what it means for the McCain campaign after the click...
The charges Dick faces are far from trivial; they are serious felonies providing for serious jail time. Dick could well be imprisoned for the rest of his life. Convictions for Honest Services Wire Fraud and Extortion each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both, and a wire fraud conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. Convictions for a Money Laundering Conspiracy and Concealment Money Laundering each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the money at stake, or both. A conviction for the use by Renzi and Sandlin of the alleged proceeds, known as Transactional Money Laundering, carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the money at stake, or both. Convictions for False Statements to an Insurance Regulator and Misappropriation of Insurance Premiums each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both, and a conspiracy to commit these insurance offenses carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
If convicted, Dick's life is over.
This will be a hell of headline trial, though it's highly technical
and white-collar nature will mean that the public won't find it
terribly sexy ("Oh, did you see the Big Dick trial yesterday? The
testimony of the forensic accountant for the state was riveting!"). I
don't know where it will ultimately be tried (the Grand Jury sat in
Tucson, suggesting that USA Humetewa will try it outside Dick's
district), but I would love to be there for it.
Renzi's downfall is hardly a surprise to anyone who has been closely following Renzi's career lately; though given the dearth of real reportage on Renzi's peculations, it could certainly be a surprise to many of his constituents. Anyone who looked closely at the facts that have publicly available since before his re-election in 2006 could see the writing on the wall. It was just a matter of there being a prosecuting authority politically able to do its job, complete the investigation, and bring the indictment (PDF).
Renzi's lawyers today released the following statement:
"Yesterday morning, Congressman Renzi buried his father and best friend, Major General Eugene Renzi, at Arlington National Cemetery. Just hours later, as his family mourned his father’s passing, the media informed him that the Department of Justice had brought charges against him.
We are disappointed that the Department of Justice would not allow a decent amount of time to pass to allow a son to mourn the passing of his father.
We are disappointed that there have been repeated leaks in the face of strict grand jury secrecy rules.
And we fear that the Department of Justice may have allowed the investigation to have been influenced by political considerations, which should never have a place in the administration of justice.
Congressman Renzi did nothing wrong. We will fight these charges until he is vindicated and his family’s name is restored."
The hilarious part is the complaint about political influence at the Justice Department, obviously suggesting that any such pressure was against Renzi's interest, but merely serving to highlight the political intervention on his behalf. Dick should reconsider his representation if the best they can do is remind everyone of the favoritism shown Renzi by the White House, and pewling about the timing of an indictment long in the process. Almost as silly as complaining about Dick's dad's timing in deciding when to pass...
There was certainly nothing all that fancy or clever about Renzi's embezzlement and fraud; I've seen far more clever criminals. He apparently had such disdain for white- collar law enforcement (with some justification unfortunately, as prosecuting authorities in this country devote far less resources to such priorities than is warranted), and such confidence in his political coverage, that he hardly bothered to attempt to conceal his illegal actions. Many of his crimes can be easily inferred, if not proven, by anyone who cares to look at public records.
Nor are Renzi's actions all that remarkable, or even considered deviant, among the culture of corruption, self-dealing, and the naked influence pedaling that the GOP has built over the past 12 years in power. I won't be surprised to see many Republicans continue to stand behind the Dick, in fact, I relish the prospect of their defense of the Dick.
Renzi is an Arizona co-chair of presumptive GOP nominee Senator John "Keating" McCain's campaign. It will be interesting to see how Mr. McClean deals with the downfall of his ally. I am awaiting Dick's name being sent down the memory hole on McCain's Arizona supporter page. For your amusement when it happens, here's a screen shot of McCain's page just after the indictment was announced. Let's see how long he lasts...
UPDATE: McCain announced that Renzi would step down as co-chair of his campaign on a blogger conference call earlier today. How soon before McCain's web-monkeys hit the scrub button?
UPDATE: Gone, baby, gone! As of midnight, 2/23. Renzi no longer even merits a 'notable endorsement'... even GOP bête noir Randy Pullen (who is constantly at loggerheads with McCain) merits such treatment. Not even a 'leadership team' nod. Even piddly ex-state reps and senators get such props. Dick is down the memory hole. My guess is you won't hear the name Renzi out of McCain's mouth ever again.
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