There’s a story making the rounds that former Congressman Curt Weldon will not be charged in a seemingly endless influence-peddling probe that dates back more than two years. “It has been 28 months since FBI agents descended on Delaware County in the midst of a no-holds-barred congressional race, eliminating U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon’s chances of returning to Washington for an 11th term,” the Philadelphia Daily News reported over the weekend. “In October 2006, three days after media reports revealed the existence of an influence-peddling probe involving Weldon, federal agents raided the homes and business of the congressman’s daughter, Karen, and his campaign adviser, Charles Sexton Jr. But more than two years after the raids, neither the Weldons nor Sexton have been charged, and some legal observers say they may not be.”
Prosecutors have charged two people in the case: Cecelia Grimes, who is a lobbyist and intimate friend of Weldon’s, was charged with destroying after the feds found that she had tossed her BlackBerry into a dumpster at Arby’s. Russ Caso, Weldon’s former chief of staff, was charged with failing to report $19,000 of his wife’s income on a congressional disclosure report (though the income was reported for tax purposes).
According to the News:
Cooperating witnesses who strike plea deals are typically not sentenced until after they testify against whomever the government plans to target, according to John Lauro, a defense attorney and former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York. “You want to keep that issue open and give the sentencing judge the ability to see the extent of the cooperation, which may have included testifying,” Lauro said. The fact that prosecutors want to proceed to sentencing Caso and Grimes “signals to me that charges against anybody else are unlikely,” he said.
If the case is dropped at this point, it will certainly be an embarrassment for prosecutors. All they’ve got to show for their work thus far are two guilty pleas from small players, on insignificant charges. (Caso’s “crime” pales in comparison to the actions of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who failed to pay $34,000 in taxes.)
As to Weldon, perhaps the feds can’t demonstrate that he belongs in jail (though the congressman and a number of his colleagues have benefited due to the Speech or Debate Clause). One thing is certain, though–he doesn’t belong in Congress.
In addition to being a buffoon Weldon indisputably helped steer business to the lobby shop of his twenty-something daughter, who had no political experience; he similarly helped out the lobby business of the similarly inexperienced Grimes, a close personal friend; his children had a tendency to get jobs with his campaign donors and defense firms he helped out; he took his family on a European trip paid for by Russian and Serbian interests; and he used huge sums of campaign money to dine out at restaurants and stay at hotels. The list goes on and on.
In short, Weldon used his congressional seat to the great benefit of himself, his family and friends. It’s possible he did nothing illegal, but his conduct was clearly unethical.