Ethics Suspends Renzi Probe

Posted May 22, 2008 at 3:53pm

A House ethics subcommittee established to investigate whether Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) violated House rules will suspend a portion of its inquiry following a request from the Justice Department.

Renzi was indicted earlier this year on 35 counts of extortion, money laundering and conspiracy in federal court in Arizona.

“[A]fter careful deliberation, the Investigative Subcommittee has voted to refrain at this time from attempting to interview or depose witnesses linked to the criminal proceedings involving Representative Renzi,” reads a statement issued Thursday from the full House ethics panel.

“The unanimous determination of the Investigative Subcommittee followed the receipt of a communication from the United States Department of Justice expressing concern that such investigative actions might create legal or factual issues that would complicate or impede the criminal prosecution and related law enforcement efforts in this matter.”

Renzi has plead not guilty to the federal corruption charges, which include allegations that he offered to advance legislation for a mining company only if the company would buy land from his business partner. The case is scheduled to go to trial no earlier than October.

“While recognizing that the allegations involving Representative Renzi are of a very serious nature and must be addressed by the House of Representatives acting under its rules and precedents, the Investigative Subcommittee concluded that it cannot move forward in this matter at this time without engaging in investigative activities that would risk interfering with the criminal prosecution and related ongoing investigation,” the statement continued.

Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, respectively, added in the statement that the subcommittee will continue “to monitor the criminal proceedings and will consider pursuing avenues of inquiry that it concludes do not interfere with the law enforcement efforts.”

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), also includes ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Reps. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.).