Arizona congressman's land deals all tied up in scandal )
May 3, 2007


Congressman Rick Renzi, Republican of Arizona, has brought congressional land deals into the spotlight in the last couple of weeks. A federal grand jury in Tucson is investigating connections between land swap legislation Renzi supported and his campaign finances, and it appears there may be a link to the scandal over ousted U.S. Attorneys.

Today's Phoenix New Times has a column on the land deals. More links are provided below to stories that focus on different aspects of Renzi's troubles.

Until last week, Renzi sat on the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees public lands (and land trades). Last year he sponsored a bill that would have traded public land to Resolution Copper, a joint venture between two of the world's largest mining companies. Western Lands Project submitted testimony against the bill.

As a reward for his sponsorship of the land swap bill, Renzi wanted Resolution to purchase a piece of land he had formerly co-owned. (He had sold his share to his business partner for $200,000 and put the money into his campaign).

Resolution refused to buy the land, so Renzi made the land part of another congressional land deal that was being put together by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. Babbitt and his partners bought the land from Renzi's associate for somewhere between $1 million and $5 million. Renzi moved the Babbitt swap to the top of his list, promising the proponents he'd get their bill through Congress. The Phoenix New Times broke that story last year.

The Resolution Copper land trade stalled in the last Congress and has yet to be re-introduced. The Babbitt deal has not yet made it into a bill. The campaign finance/ethics rules aspect of Renzi's scandal stems from his having failed to report the money he got from his business partner. Renzi's then-chief of staff went to the FBI about all of this, which spurred an investigation of Renzi that was apparently stalled. The delay is now being linked to the scandal over U.S. Attorneys firings.

Janine, Joanne and Chris

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