FBI Raids Renzi Family Business; Congressman Leaves Intelligence Panel

Posted April 19, 2007 at 9:04pm

In a second blow to House Republicans this week, the FBI raided a business tied to the family of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) Thursday afternoon as part of an ongoing investigation into the three-term lawmaker.

Details of the raid on Patriot Insurance Agency in Sonoita, Ariz., were not immediately available. Renzi’s most recent financial disclosure form lists the business as an asset belonging to his wife, Roberta, and valued at $1 million to $5 million.

Little is known about the inquiries into Renzi’s activities, but according to media reports the Justice Department has been running a two-track investigation into Renzi regarding a land deal, as well as a piece of legislation he helped steer that may have improperly benefited a major campaign contributor. It was not immediately clear which investigation the raid pertained to, and neither his attorney nor his spokesman could be immediately reached for comment.

As a result of the raid, Renzi is stepping down from his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, according to a statement from his office obtained Thursday evening by Roll Call.

“Today, the FBI came to my family’s business to obtain documents related to their investigation,” Renzi said. “I view these actions as the first step in bringing out the truth. Until this matter is resolved, I will take a leave of absence from the House Intelligence Committee. I intend to fully cooperate with this investigation.”

Renzi informed Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) of the raid Thursday afternoon.

“This afternoon Rick informed me that the office of his family’s private business had been the subject of an FBI search earlier today,” Boehner said in statement. “In a similarly pro-active fashion, he also informed me of his decision to step down from his seat on the Intelligence Committee to avoid any unnecessary distractions on the panel and its critical work. Rick’s decision was made with the best interests of the House of Representatives in mind, and I credit him for the decisive and forthright manner in which he has he responded to these developments. He and his family have my best wishes for a speedy resolution to this matter.”

Last Friday, the FBI raided the Oakton, Va., home of Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) to obtain documents related to his wife’s business, Sierra Dominion. John and Julia Doolittle are both under investigation for their ties to incarcerated former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In contrast to Renzi, Doolittle never directly informed Boehner of the raid, and the news did not reach House leaders until six days after the event occurred. Doolittle stepped down from his seat on the Appropriations Committee today.

In his first-quarter filing with the Federal Election Commission, Renzi reported a debt of $103,000 to Patton Boggs for legal services. However, he lists Laurie Miller at Nixon Peabody as his attorney in a statement.

In an election year tainted by numerous Congressional scandals, Renzi had a tougher-than-anticipated re-election fight in November against attorney Ellen Simon (D), winning with just 51 percent of the vote.