Sunday, October 15, 2006

Curt Weldon's Foreign Relations

The Philadelphia Inquirer has picked up on the story of a federal investigation into the lobbying activities of Congressman Curt Weldon's daughter:
The investigation, based in Washington, has progressed beyond the preliminary stages, people familiar with the case told The Inquirer on Friday. McClatchy Newspapers broke the story.
FBI spokeswoman Deborah Weierman in Washington declined comment. Weldon's lawyer in Washington, William B. Canfield III, could not be reached at work, at home or by e-mail last night.
Charles Sexton, a political ally of the congressman and a business partner of his daughter, said the timing of the leaks is "awful strange." "No one has contacted me," he said. "People can look at us all day long. There is no wrongdoing." Sexton and Karen Weldon, 32, formed a public relations firm, Solutions North America, in 2002, and won $1 million in contracts from two Russian energy firms and a Serbian family with ties to Slobodan Milosevic.
That business dealing was first reported in 2004 by the Los Angeles Times. Sources said the FBI and Justice Department investigation was based on the Times story.
The Inquirer reported in 2004 that Weldon had lobbied federal officials on behalf of one of those firms, Itera, a huge and controversial Russian natural gas company. Weldon also complained to Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about Itera's treatment by the federal U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Itera paid $500,000 to Karen Weldon and Sexton's firm. The contract was signed in Sept. 30, 2002, six days after the congressman helped arrange a dinner at the Library of Congress to honor Itera and Igor Makarov, the firm's chief executive officer.
The story touches on two themes that could resonate with voters: First, it raises the question of cozy relationships with lobbyists. While Democrats haven't been able to tar the entire GOP as being in bed with lobbyists, ethical questions are hurting Republican incumbents who have been seen as closer to K Street than Main Street.
Second, it raises questions about Curt Weldon's judgement when it comes to national security. Close relations with pals of Slobodan Milosevic and Russian energy tycoons doesn't play well back home, especially when your views on foreign affairs are being questioned as, shall we say, esoteric.
Earlier this year, Weldon seized on the existence of degraded chemical weapons, thought to be buried since before the first Gulf War, as proof of the claims that Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs. He was so convinced of the strategic importance of these moldering munitions, that he wanted to lead the excavation himself, as Tom Ferrick wrote in the Inquirer:
It's a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie - or an Indiana Jones parody:
A caravan of jeeps and heavy equipment crawls across the Iraqi desert, headed for a secret location on the banks of the Euphrates River.
Their mission: to dig 25 feet down into the riverbed and unearth concrete bunkers filled with chemical weapons produced by Saddam Hussein's regime and hidden before the outbreak of the Iraq war in 2003.
And who's that, dressed in a safari jacket and a pith helmet, supervising the dig?
None other than our own U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.), leading a secret mission to unearth the Holy Grail of the war: the weapons of mass destruction that have eluded every other U.S. search team since our troops invaded three years ago.
Weldon has been running neck and neck with his challenger Joe Sestak. We'll see if this story changes things.


Blogger Catbird said...

One development today: the FBI raided Karen Weldon's house.

3:14 PM, October 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will take this investigation even if it is paybacks for Able Danger.

12:44 PM, October 17, 2006  

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