WASHINGTON – Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi avoided federal campaign penalties by paying $323,830 in back taxes last year to reassure regulators that loans to his political committee came from his own pocket.
The Federal Election Commission, in documents made public Tuesday, said it decided to take no further action against Renzi regarding the source of the loans to his 2001-2002 congressional campaign.
Renzi, a Republican, did agree to pay a $25,000 fine for unrelated reporting violations during that election cycle.
The congressman, who has been drawn into an FBI investigation of an Arizona land deal, completed a conciliation agreement with the FEC on Jan. 10, but it was only made public now.
In another FEC matter, the Democratic National Committee agreed to pay an $82,000 penalty for failing to file timely reports on independent expenditures during the 2004 campaign. Independent expenditures tend to be television ads or direct mailings done on behalf of, but without coordination with, a federal candidate.
The FEC's investigation of Renzi's 2002 campaign came after an FEC audit questioned whether $369,090 in loans to the campaign came from two Renzi operated corporations, which would be prohibited by law.
An FEC general counsel's report, however, said an accountant retained by Renzi reconstructed the activity between Renzi and the corporations and found that Renzi had never listed a loan repayment to him from the corporations. In a document to the FEC last year, Renzi said he and his wife filed amended 2001 tax returns paying federal back taxes of $285,421 and state taxes of $38,409.
"According to the (FEC's) audit division, the underlying transactional data and the amended tax returns show that the source of the $369,090 that Renzi loaned to his campaign came from loan repayments to him, and hence were his personal funds, not prohibited corporate contributions," the FEC counsel wrote.
In a statement Tuesday, Renzi said: "I take responsibility for the inaccuracy of our first FEC report. In an effort to clear it up, we hired a new CPA, and all our reports are now correct and complete."
The $25,000 fine was for understating receipts and disbursements and overstating cash on hand in campaign reports filed shortly before and after the 2002 election.