WASHINGTON – An Arizona congressman temporarily stepped down from two more House committees on Tuesday, less than a week after the FBI raided his wife's insurance business.
Rep. Rick Renzi announced in a statement Tuesday that he was taking a leave of absence from the House Financial Services and Natural Resources committees. He stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee last week.
The Arizona Republican said he had been "the subject of leaked stories, conjecture and false attacks" about a 2005 land exchange that is now being investigated by the U.S. attorney for Arizona.
"None of them bear any resemblance to the truth," Renzi said.
Law enforcement officials confirmed in October that they were scrutinizing a land deal that benefited a Renzi friend and business associate who was also a campaign donor. Last Thursday, the FBI raided a Sonoita, Ariz., insurance business owned by Renzi's wife, Roberta.
Renzi has denied all wrongdoing. His lawyer did not return several calls for comment Tuesday.
According to state records and officials involved in the land deal, Renzi helped promote the sale of land that netted his former business partner, James Sandlin, $4.5 million.
The property eventually was to be part of a swap in which potential buyers could exchange it for land owned by the federal government. Such deals are common in the West, where the government owns vast tracts of land. Renzi had said he wanted to prevent encroaching development near the Fort Huachuca army post and to protect the environmentally threatened San Pedro River.
But Renzi never introduced legislation in Congress to complete the swap for the new owners.
Tuesday, he said he had asked Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., introduce the land exchange bill "so that no one can question the motivation behind the land exchange which I and other leaders from both parties have argued is critical to the future of Arizona."
Pastor said he would think about introducing a new version of the bill. He said he had no immediate plans to do so.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that he appreciated Renzi's decision.
"I know it was made with the best interests of the House, his constituents and his family in mind, and I look forward to seeing this matter resolved swiftly," Boehner said in a statement.
The raid on Renzi's business happened the same day that Rep. John Doolittle (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif., temporarily stepped down from the House Appropriations Committee. Doolittle is under scrutiny for his ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.