A week ago the Supreme Court turned down an appeal from former Republican Congressman Rick Renzi, who began serving a three-year prison term in February. In 2006, a left-leaning U.S. Attorney in Arizona saw an opportunity to take out the popular, charismatic conservative Congressman by going after him over a confusing and complicated land deal. Renzi was an easy target because the facts were so complex there was little chance the general public would figure out how the law was being manipulated to selectively target him. This type of targeting has become a common pattern by the left; similar tactics were used against former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, former Congressman Bob MacDonnell and a district attorney in Texas. Representing a swing district, once Renzi’s credibility was destroyed, it became easy to turn the seat over to a Democrat.
Renzi was found guilty on 17 counts of using his office for personal financial gain and taking $400,000 in corporate money from his family insurance business to fund his campaign. He was convicted of proposing a land swap deal in Congress to benefit a man who owed him money, so the man could afford to pay him back. It is true that he suggested The Aries Group purchase an alfalfa farm near Sierra Vista owned by James Sandlin, and he proposed legislation swapping out the land for copper-rich land owned by the federal government. The sale went through at fair market value, shortly after Sandlin paid Renzi $733,000. Sandlin was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
However, the government never provided any evidence that The Aries Group’s purchase of the property provided Sandlin with the money to pay Renzi back. The land swap legislation never went into effect. In fact, Sandlin paid off the debt in September 2005 with a loan he had taken out for $900,000. He did not receive the money from The Aries Group until October 2005, a month after he had repaid the debt, which he put into escrow. Additionally, he had multiple properties he could have sold to repay the debt. He had been making regular payments on the debt since it originated over a handshake in 2003, and there was no indication whatsoever that he was going to discontinue payments. Perhaps most importantly, Renzi would not have received any benefit from the land swap. The land swap was simply not related to the debt.