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Wed, Oct. 23

Top 10 Stories of 2007: #4 - Renzi FBI investigation

The Daily Courier/Nathaniel Kastelic<br>
Don Howard, left, Arizona Wildfire Academy Incident Commander, and Darrell Willis, Prescott Fire Chief and helper of academy coordination, answer Congressman Rick Renzi’s question of “how much money do you need?” March 19, 2006, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

The Daily Courier/Nathaniel Kastelic<br> Don Howard, left, Arizona Wildfire Academy Incident Commander, and Darrell Willis, Prescott Fire Chief and helper of academy coordination, answer Congressman Rick Renzi’s question of “how much money do you need?” March 19, 2006, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott.

U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi announced in August that he would not seek a fourth term in the sprawling Congressional District One that includes Yavapai County.

The announcement came four months after he admitted that the FBI had raided his family insurance office in southern Arizona.

Renzi resigned from the House Intelligence Committee at that time, and within a week he resigned from his remaining committee assignments.

The rumors of federal investigations started circulating on Internet blogs shortly after an Oct. 12, 2006 Phoenix New Times story questioned Renzi's motives in a land swap deal that financially benefited his former business partner James Sandlin.

The Associated Press soon produced a story saying the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona was investigating an unspecified Renzi land deal. The story quoted an anonymous law enforcement official in Washington.

A New York Times story quickly followed, quoting unnamed "federal authorities" or "law enforcement officials" saying that "federal authorities in Arizona" were investigating whether Renzi introduced legislation to benefit his father.

Then a Washington Post story quoted "three (unnamed) law enforcement officials" saying both the U.S. Attorney's Office and FBI's Phoenix field office were investigating "two land deals," one completed and one not, related to Sandlin.

Despite all the bad publicity and a lack of appearances at debates, Renzi handily won re-election in November 2006.

Shortly after the April 2007 FBI raid at the Renzi insurance office in Sonoita, U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton of Arizona told House Judiciary Committee investigators that Renzi's then-chief of staff Brian Murray had contacted Charlton's office about the FBI investigation. That was the first time House investigators had heard about the call, despite repeated questioning.

The Hill, a weekly newspaper that covers Congress, reported in late April that Renzi failed to report a $200,000 payment from Sandlin in his personal financial disclosure report.

By the time Renzi announced in August 2007 that he would not seek a fourth term, his campaign committee was nearly a half-million dollars in the red.

Three Democrats already had announced they'd run against Renzi: former state representative Ann Kirkpatrick, attorney Howard Shanker and journalist Mary Kim Titla.

Sidney Hay has announced on the Republican side, and Arizona Rep. Bill Konopnicki has formed an exploratory committee.

Renzi has not made a public appearance in Prescott since his re-election.

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