Monday, April 30, 2007

It Was All Hidden In Plain Sight

In DC, they're making a movie about Rick Renzi. It's called "Dead Man Walking." My suggested headline was "Big News From Arizona (as reported elsewhere)" but the editor went drier and more clinical (and less interesting).

There's nothing we know now (apart from 40 FBI agents raiding the guy's wife's business--but we don't know what they were looking for or what they found) that we didn't know 6 months ago. That wasn't reported 6 months ago. But the powers that be here in AZ just ignored it until it appeared in The Wall Street Journal--then it became real! We can't ignore it anymore! Sheesh.

Last week, after publication of the front-page Journal story, The Republic editorialized:

Partisan Democrats have tied the two Renzi investigations to last fall's firing of the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Paul Charlton. Unlike the paper trails tracking the land deals, however, there is no evidence so far that the demonstrably inept Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fired Charlton to stave off an FBI investigation that was already well under way. Not yet, at least.

Fascinating--it's all the fault of those partisan Democrats. But what, exactly, is the Bush administration explanation for firing Charlton? Have they produced one? After everything that we've learned about Gonzales and the Bush White House, is there anybody who wants to make a bet that the Renzi investigation wasn't the reason?

Jaime Molera and I are doing the two-sides-of-every-issue thing for the "At the Capitol" segment tonight's Horizon program, 7 pm on Channel 8 (and streaming on the KAET website). He likes John McCain, I don't.

NATIONAL MEDIA KEEP TABS ON RENZI
East Valley Tribune, Apr. 29, 2007

Rick Renzi is the latest GOP gift that keeps on giving; almost every morning, another shoe drops. I just hope he doesn't resign before this column runs. If only for continued enjoyment of this scandal, House Democrats better keep William "Doesn't everybody keep cash in their freezer?" Jefferson, D-La., off any committees, too.

For those depending on Arizona media for Arizona news, a brief recap is required. Renzi is a three-term GOP congressman from Flagstaff -- in the sense that a pro athlete is "from" Phoenix, it's where he plays but it's not where he grew up or where his family lives. Renzi is the son of a retired Army general, formerly the commandant at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, who now works for ManTech, one of the base's largest contractors, with some $500 million in contracts. Sierra Vista isn't anywhere near Renzi's congressional district.

Renzi also was reelected last November using a TV ad that Jacob Weisberg of Slate, who usually bends over backwards to blame both sides, called "pure political poison" in which "not a single claim in the ad is actually true." Renzi also is the subject of two separate federal investigations, one reportedly looking into whether he used his official status to benefit his father's employer. In 2003, he sponsored legislation that would have relaxed water restrictions on Fort Huachuca, allowing expansion of the base. Renzi claimed that ManTech couldn't benefit, because the company somehow could transfer its contracts to another base. Neither daily newspaper here found anything noteworthy in Renzi pushing a bill benefiting his father's employer.

It took The Wall Street Journal to report the other investigation, whether Renzi used his office to push the sale of a 480-acre parcel owned by Renzi associate James Sandlin. Renzi first demanded that Resolution Copper purchase the land near Fort Huachuca before he'd support a federal land swap for Resolution's new copper mine. Renzi then told a second group that purchasing Sandlin's parcel was "a matter of national security" and key to Renzi's support for their proposed exchange. After selling to the second group, Sandlin paid a Renzi family business $200,000.

The Journal then reported last Wednesday that the Renzi investigations "faced unexpected obstacles" and those delays "postponed key approvals in the case until after the [2006] election." The Hill newspaper also uncovered that Renzi didn't disclose Sandlin's $200,000 payment as required by House rules. The Washington Post then reported that Renzi's chief of staff, Brian Murray (former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party) called U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton in late 2006 about the Renzi investigations -- which Charlton's office, as required, reported to the Justice Department. However, Justice somehow failed to disclose that call in their "document dump" about the U.S. Attorney firings.

Charlton first appeared on Justice Department lists of "bad" U.S. Attorneys in a Sept. 13, 2006 memo, a late addition. Nobody from the Bush administration has managed to explain why Charlton was let go, so it's getting easier to connect it to the Renzi investigations. There aren't documents, so far, linking Charlton's firing to delaying these investigations -- but the White House keeps stonewalling on those emails on Republican National Committee servers used by Bush administration staffers. You know, the ones that haven't been "lost."

Republicans used to love the FBI when it investigated the Clinton administration. But the FBI isn't pro-Republican; it's anti-incumbent. Oops!

Not only are the Arizona media playing "report-what's-being-reported-elsewhere" on an Arizona story with national implications, but even when reprinting someone else's story, The Arizona Republic puts their own spin on the ball. Last Thursday, the Republic reprinted a Washington Post story, with the headline "Renzi Aide Called U.S. Attorney to Ask About Probe/Chief of Staff Inquired About Land Deal Investigation; Prosecutor Among Eight Who Were Fired." The Republic's version: "Renzi Aide's Call to U.S. Attorney Inflames Dems."

See? You don't need Fox News to learn the GOP talking points. But based on our local media getting scooped on Rick Renzi, you'd better read national papers to know what's happening in Arizona.

1 comment:

Ellen Simon 2008 said...

AZ-01: Ellen Simon is in!

Ellen Simon formally filed papers with the FEC to run for the tainted Rick Renzi seat. Simon got into the race late in 2006 and still gave the incumbent a scare. Renzi outspent her almost two to one and ran what Campaigns and Elections magazine called the "nastiest campaign" of the year. He still only won with 52% of the vote.

It looks like Renzi will have to step down, leading to a special election. Arizona law requires an election 3 to 5 months from the time the seat is vacated. In a district the size of the state of PA, Ellen would be the obvious front runner with name recognition, an organization and a strong fundraising base.

Now that it's obvious that the seat can be taken however, everybody wants a piece and the establishment is lining up behind their own. The monied players want a conservative Democrat who will tow the party line and they're not worried what the voters in the district think.

Ellen jumped into the race against Renzi in 2006 to make sure that the Republicans would have to fight to hold the seat. She got in too late to build the type of network needed in a district as large as this, but she made significant progress. If we start over from scratch with a new candidate, we'll be throwing away the work that Ellen and her volunteers put in last year.

We can't afford to move backwards on this district. Ellen is running and she's our best bet to win.