Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Congressman From Arizona Is the Focus of an Inquiry

The New York Times
Congressman From Arizona Is the Focus of an Inquiry

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 — Federal authorities in Arizona have opened an inquiry into whether Representative Rick Renzi introduced legislation that benefited a military contractor that employs his father, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The officials said the inquiry was at an early stage and that no search warrants had been issued, suggesting that investigators had yet to determine whether there was a basis to open a formal investigation or empanel a grand jury.

Mr. Renzi, 48, a Republican who represents the First Congressional District, is a former insurance executive and real estate investor who was first elected in 2002. Almost from the start, he has been a target of citizen watchdog groups who have accused him of ethical laxity in office.

Law enforcement officials said that the most serious accusation involved Mr. Renzi’s sponsorship of legislation in 2003 that appeared to indirectly benefit the ManTech International Corporation, a communications company based in Virginia that employs Mr. Renzi’s father, Eugene, a retired Army general, as executive vice president.

Representative Renzi’s office did not return a reporter’s telephone calls on Tuesday to discuss the inquiry. In the past, Mr. Renzi has dismissed questions about whether his efforts aided ManTech, saying it did not need any assistance from him.

Mr. Renzi’s legislation, which was signed into law in November 2003, exempted the Fort Huachuca Army base in Arizona from maintaining water levels in the nearby San Pedro River, as base officials had agreed in a 2002 deal with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Environmentalists criticized Mr. Renzi’s measure, saying it threatened water levels in one of the last undammed rivers in the West and would benefit private contractors like ManTech that operated at the base and relied on its continued operation.

ManTech has more than $450 million in military contracts at the base, which include classified military work, as well as options for more than $1.1 billion in additional contracts, according to news reports about Mr. Renzi’s legislation. Employees of the company were the largest contributors to Mr. Renzi’s campaign in 2002 and the second-largest in 2004.

Groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have raised additional questions about Mr. Renzi, like his employment of a top staff member in December 2005 who continued to operate a fund-raising consulting business while she worked for Mr. Renzi. House ethics rules limit outside earned income to less than $25,000 a year.