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Ethics Panel Launches Renzi Probe

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct voted today to form an investigative subcommittee to probe whether indicted Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) has violated the chamber's Code of Official Conduct.

Renzi was charged last week by a federal grand jury with 35 counts of money laundering, extortion and other offenses related to federal land-swap scheme and his alleged embezzlement of money from his own company to fund his first House campaign. The indictment alleges that Renzi pressured two parties interested in a federal land exchange to buy property from a former Renzi business partner who owed the lawmaker money.

Though the ethics committee mostly operates in secret, it is required to announce the formation of investigative subcommittees. The Renzi subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), and Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas) will serve as the ranking Republican. Reps. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will also be members of the panel.

Based on recent precedent, it is likely the panel will defer most further proceedings out of deference to the Justice Department's prosecution of Renzi, who is scheduled to be arraigned in Tuscon March 6th. The slow movement and frequent partisan feuding on the ethics committee has fueled a move in both parties to reform the system, though Democrats were forced Wednesday to cancel a vote scheduled for today on their reform proposal after members of both parties expressed objections.

Democrats are now working to corral more support for the plan, which would create a new outside Office of Congressional Ethics, so they can try again to bring it to the House floor in the coming weeks.

By Ben Pershing  |  February 28, 2008; 4:40 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules  
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