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Back on February 20, 2004, a Los Angeles Times correspondent named Ken Silverstein (now the Harper’s Washington editor) broke an amazing story concerning Congressman Curt Weldon, a Republican from the affluent exurban region to the south of Philadelphia. Weldon’s daughter, Karen, 29, was picking up a series of plum lobbying assignments. She had little by way of credentials or experience for the work. She had one major asset: her father Curt. And there was a strange pattern to the interests circling around the Weldons: a Serbian company, shady Russian oil and gas interests—and a foreign sovereign, the Government of Uzbekistan. Around this time I attended a Congressional briefing on Siberian oil and gas investments and watched lobbyists associated with some of the darkest interests in Russia hover all around Weldon as he offered them a primer on doing business in the United States.
Shortly afterwards, I learned from contacts at the State Department, Weldon was busy writing letters to the Government denouncing U.S. citizens who had criticized the Government in Tashkent—now widely considered one of the closest things to a Stalinist terror regime on the face of the planet. But they had Curt Weldon’s unlimited friendship and support. What, I wondered, would the people of Chester County, Pennsylvania think about that? Eventually all of this worked its way into the local press, and they had a pretty clear reaction. The voters retired Mr. Weldon from Congressional service, sending Admiral Joseph Sestak in his place.
This morning’s Washington Post reports that Weldon’s Congressional chief of staff has agreed to plead guilty on conspiracy charges that focus on Weldon and a consulting company in which the Weldon family apparently had interests. Carol D. Leonnig reports:
Former congressman Curt Weldon’s chief of staff has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges for allegedly helping a consulting firm championed by Weldon obtain federal funds and for concealing money the firm paid his wife, according to court papers filed yesterday. Russell James Caso Jr. and a top official at the unnamed nonprofit consulting firm met repeatedly with Weldon to seek the Pennsylvania Republican’s help in obtaining federal funds for the organization’s defense projects, according to the court papers.
The “criminal information,” a document filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Washington, could not have been submitted without the defendant’s permission. It indicates that a plea agreement has been reached. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Friday on the charges against Caso.
The criminal information is remarkably short on essential facts—including who the “Executive Branch” official was with whom the meetings occurred, and what the project was about.
But the Associated Press’s story on the case fills in a couple of further details. The money that Caso’s wife earned came from Solutions North America, a company controlled by Weldon’s daughter, Karen. It also makes clear that the business sought had to do with anti-proliferation programs in Russia and the former Soviet Union.
The AP also noted that the FBI had previously raided the homes of the owners of Solutions North America and “one of their clients, located in Jacksonville, Florida.” Just a guess, mind you, but one of the companies I observed circling around Weldon was Itera International, which is based in Jacksonville.
With a guilty plea in hand, and Weldon’s chief of staff likely cooperating in the investigation into his boss, this would appear to be a major step forward in the case.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Amount by which a typical good-looking U.S. worker will out-earn a typical ugly one over a lifetime:
A Japanese inventor unveiled a new invisibility cloak that uses a material made of thousands of tiny beads called “retro-reflectum.”
A couple at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Greenville, South Carolina, left their waitress a note telling her “the woman’s place is in the home,” in lieu of a tip.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."