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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.
Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.
Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.
Average amount of time a child spends in Santa Claus’s lap at Macy’s (in seconds):
Beer does not cause beer bellies.
Following the arrest of at least 10 clowns in Kentucky and Alabama, Tennesseans were warned that clowns could be “predators” and Pennsylvanians were advised not to interact with what one police chief described as “knuckleheads with clown-like clothes on.”
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”