Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rookie Of The Year, Republican Style

We're coming to you today from the Who Me? Department here in the marbled halls of IM Central. Who Me? is a subsidiary of the What Are You Looking At? Corporation in partnership with the Republican Party, Inc. And joining us from the Republican Party is indicted felon, Representative Rick Renzi from Arizona.

Representative Renzi in just three terms in Congress has managed to secure a 35 count indictment that includes extortion, money laundering and fraud. What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Renzi?

I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt because I am innocent,” Mr. Renzi declared in the statement.

It should be pointed out that Mr. Renzi is a graduate of the Tom Delay School of Political Science and Chop Shop and has done post graduate work at the Larry Craig Wide Stance Institute.

His insistence on remaining in office until he is sentenced is likely to frustrate fellow republicans who have yet to be indicted and are already facing enormous challenges in this year’s elections, including a persistent disadvantage in campaign money and a wave of retirements by incumbents who know they couldn't get their own dogs to vote for them again, not to mention that republican rubber stamping of president Bush's fantasies has driven the country to the brink of insolvency, mired it in an unwinnable, seemingly endless war and devastated a once thriving economy.

"Sure it sounds bad when you put it like that," said one republican senator who asked not to be named until the charges were dropped. "What about the bridges we built? The housecleaning we did at the Department of Justice? Or how we made it OK to talk about torture again? What about all that, huh? We don't get half the respect we deserve."

Yeah. Well, anyway, back to Representative Renzi.

"Congressman Renzi misused his public office by forcing a land sale that would financially benefit himself and a business associate, and in so doing, he betrayed the trust of the citizens of Arizona," Diane Humetewa, the U.S. attorney in Phoenix, said. "For that he has been awarded the upcoming republican legislator of the year award, which will be presented at his hearing."

Renzi, a former real estate investor and insurance executive, has operated under a cloud of suspicion almost since his election to Congress. He was fined by the Federal Election Commission for reporting violations in connection with his first campaign for Congress. A Washington-based watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has included Renzi on its list of "most corrupt" Congress members for several years.

"We always knew this guy had potential," said a spokesperson for the RNCC.

Renzi's Washington lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Kelly Kramer, issued a statement saying Renzi did "nothing wrong." They also criticized the Justice Department for bringing the charges. shortly after his father's death. "We think there's a law that says you can't be charged with anything if your father dies while you're in congress," said a spokesperson for the firm. "Or maybe it's that you get an automatic 'A' if your roommate commits suicide. We're still checking."

According to the indictment "Renzi was having financial difficulty throughout 2005 and needed a substantial infusion of funds to keep his insurance business solvent and to maintain his republican lifestyle."

The indictment also accuses Renzi of embezzling more than $400,000 in premiums from an insurance agency owned by Renzi's family. The money, the indictment alleges, helped bankroll Renzi's first congressional campaign. "Well, come on," said one of Renzi's lawyers. "The people weren't supporting him, how else was he going to get himself elected to congress?"

Mr. Renzi had been serving as a Arizona state co-chairman of Senator John McCain’s campaign for president. But Mr. McCain has indicated that Mr. Renzi would be resigning that post. "Crooks in congress, that's one thing, but crooks in our campaign tend to be offputting to voters," said one aide to senator McCain.

Mr. Renzi is one of several Republican lawmakers to be indicted or under investigation in recent months. He and two co-defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in Arizona on March 6. His indictment comes as the House is preparing to consider a proposal to create an independent ethics office to investigate allegations of misconduct against lawmakers.

"This ethics stuff has become a full time job," said one committee member. "We're considering outsourcing the whole thing to India."

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