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Rep. Curt Weldon, who had championed the investigation into the Able Danger project and had been a strident critic of the 9/11 Commission, faces a grand jury investigation into allegations of corruption involving his daughter and a Russian energy corporation. FBI agents raided the houses of his daughter and a close political ally, while Weldon insisted that the investigation was politically motivated:
Federal agents raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon's daughter and one of his closest political supporters yesterday as part of an investigation into whether the veteran Republican congressman used his influence to benefit himself and his daughter's lobbying firm, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The investigation focuses on actions the Pennsylvania congressman took that may have aided clients of the business created by his daughter, Karen Weldon, and longtime Pennsylvania political ally Charles Sexton, according to three of the sources. ...
The investigation focuses on Weldon's support of the Russian-managed Itera International Energy Corp., one of the world's largest oil and gas firms, while that company paid fees to Solutions North America, the company that Karen Weldon and Sexton operate.
The congressman, for example, intervened on Itera's behalf when U.S. officials canceled a federal grant to the company. He also encouraged U.S. companies to do business with Itera at a time when its reputation had been sullied by accusations of Russian corruption.
Weldon told reporters yesterday that all of this had been reviewed by the House Ethics Committee two years ago, and he had been cleared of any wrongdoing. The Congressman, in an appearance at the University of Pennsylvania last night, claimed that an associate of John Conyers and Chuck Schumer had campaigned for this investigation to be opened by the FBI during the election. Melanie Sloan now heads CREW, the same outfit that had its fingers on the infanous Mark Foley instant messages, and Weldon says she's leaked the information on the story to the press.
CREW originally filed the complaint in 2004, after a Los Angeles Times article on the murky ownership of Itera and its connections to Solutions North America. Karen Weldon and Charles Sexton run Solutions North America and they registered as lobbyists for the Russian firm in 2002, severing the relationship in 2004. SNA wanted to help Itera pursue federal contracts for gas and oil products. In this they appear to have been unsuccesful; the FedSpending.org database lists no awards to Itera from 2002-2004.
Weldon apparently complained about this lack of success to the Trade and Development Agency, accoridng to the Washington Post. He hailed Itera as a "great source" for partnership on energy projects while visiting their offices abroad, and attended the opening of their American headquarters. Only the first action raises any eyebrows at all, and it depends on the nature of the communication to TDA. If he threatened legislative action, then Weldon has a big problem. The Post, however, does not point to any actual legislative action or official intervention conducted by Weldon, and it fails to specify the nature of the complaint. Itera executives donated $8,000 to Weldon, but so far it looks like all they got was a handshake and a photo op at their North American offices. In fact, Weldon got Itera to drop its attempt to collect a $90 million debt from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and got the gas turned back on for the Georgian winter, which doesn't appear to have been terribly beneficial to the Itera executives.
If the FBI finds evidence of Weldon using his office to shovel taxpayer money into Itera's pockets and to benefit his daughter at the expense of the American taxpayer, then he should be prosecuted, and I'll cheer the jury that convicts him -- but we're not even close to that with the information in this story. The lack of any grant or contract for Itera seems to indicate that Weldon didn't do any such thing. If that had happened, it would have been while Itera still employed Sexton and his daughter as lobbyists, between 2002-4. With the evidence presented by the Post, this looks like a hit job by an organization that seems intent on building a reputation for them.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on October 17, 2006 5:28 PM
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