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Lawmaker Faces Inquiry Over Contracts to Daughter

The FBI is examining Rep. Curt Weldon's role in the awarding of $1 million in consulting and lobbying work.

October 15, 2006|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating whether Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) used his influence to secure lobbying and consulting contracts for his daughter, two people familiar with the inquiry said Saturday.

The inquiry focuses on lobbying contracts worth $1 million that Weldon's daughter, Karen Weldon, obtained from foreign clients and whether they were assisted by the congressman, they said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality of the criminal investigation.

Weldon, a 10-term Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs, long has denied any wrongdoing, and his top aide said Saturday that no one had notified him of an investigation.

"I think if there was an investigation, somebody would have contacted us," said Russ Caso, Weldon's chief of staff.

Caso said Weldon and his staff were "100% caught off-guard" by news of an investigation, first reported late Friday by McClatchy Newspapers. That account cited two individuals with specific knowledge of the existence of the investigation; they declined to be identified because of the confidentiality of criminal investigations.

Caso challenged the reports, saying that "unidentified sources mean nothing" and that "there's no substance in that story. It's a flimsy story."

Two people familiar with the investigation told the AP on Saturday that the inquiry was being handled by agents from the FBI's field offices in Washington and Philadelphia and was being coordinated by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. Spokesmen for the Justice Department and the FBI declined to comment Saturday.

Those two people familiar with the investigation confirmed that federal agents were examining Weldon's work from 2002 to 2004 to help two Russian companies and two Serbian brothers connected to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. They had hired Solutions North America Inc., a company operated by Karen Weldon and Charles Sexton, a Republican ally of the congressman.

(In February 2004, the Los Angeles Times first reported details of Rep. Weldon's efforts on behalf of the Russian businesses and the Serbian businessmen who hired his daughter's firm.)

Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is a Russian speaker regarded by some as a foreign policy expert who has clashed at times with the Bush administration. He is in a tight race for re-election Nov. 7 against Democrat Joe Sestak.

Over the last few days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has mailed fliers to voters in Weldon's district accusing Karen Weldon of getting help from her father on lobbying projects.

Michael Puppio, Weldon's campaign manager, questioned the timing of the mailing and published reports about the investigation. He accused Democrats of "attempting to smear the congressman and his entire family" in the final weeks of the campaign.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Democratic committee, called the charges "bizarre, paranoid and absurd."

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