WASHINGTON — The House ethics committee said Thursday it was beginning an investigation into the conduct of Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., who was indicted a week ago on conspiracy, extortion and other charges.
The panel said in a statement it had created a four-member subcommittee to determine whether Renzi violated any laws, rules or standards of conduct with respect to any of the matters for which he was indicted.
Renzi, 49, a three-term lawmaker whose district covers much of rural Arizona, was indicted on 35 counts including charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud and extortion. The Justice Department accuses him of engineering a swap of federally owned mining land to benefit himself and a former business partner and stealing from his insurance company's clients.
Renzi, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election, has denied wrongdoing. He has resisted suggestions from his own party, including House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, that he should consider resigning.
The subcommittee will be led by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., with Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas heading the Republican side. Reps. Steven Rothman, D-N.J., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., also will participate.
The ethics committee can issue a report that rebukes a member for violating laws or standards of conduct or can recommend that the full House consider expulsion.
The committee has been widely criticized in recent years for partisan divisions that have effectively crippled investigations.
At the Justice Department's request, the committee last August postponed an investigation into Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who has been indicted on federal charges of soliciting bribes.
Renzi's office had no immediate comment on the committee's action.
On the Net:
House ethics committee: http://www.house.gov/ethics/