Last Tuesday, a federal jury convicted former Arizona Congressman “Slick” Rick Renzi on 17 counts, including wire fraud, conspiracy, extortion, racketeering, money laundering and making false statements to insurance regulators. He was acquitted on 15 other felony charges because some evidence was ruled inadmissible.
I was especially interested in the outcome of the case, since the Republican’s conviction confirmed my character judgment. You see, Renzi represented my congressional district, and I became convinced of his corruption after my very first exposure to Mr. Slick. Indeed, only months afterward, rumors of Renzi’s abuse of power began to surface.
Renzi was indicted on charges that, while in office, he tried to force a mining company to purchase a former business associate’s land as part of a federal land exchange for copper mining. When the mining company balked, he engineered another federal land swap that included a payment of $4.6 million for land owned by James Sandlin, who then paid Renzi $733,000 for his help.
Renzi was also charged with embezzling more than $400,000 of customer premiums from his insurance business in order to fund his 2002 congressional campaign.
“Former Congressman Renzi’s streak of criminal activity was a betrayal of the public trust and abuse of the political process,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in a statement released after the verdict. “Mr. Renzi now faces the consequences for breaking the laws that he took an oath to support and defend.”
Sadly, Renzi’s conviction isn’t the end of political corruption in Arizona. But it’s a start.