Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Weldon's International Emphasis

Weldon worked hard to represent his constituents. Especially the Eastern European and Russian ones.

Officials at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade were surprised three years ago to be invited to a luncheon in honor of visiting Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), hosted by Bogoljub Karic, a wealthy Serbian businessman who had been barred from visiting or trading with the United States because of his close ties to former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Weldon "was visiting solely because of Karic," whom he was trying to get off the U.S. blacklist, a former senior embassy official familiar with the visit concluded. "It seemed odd" at the time, because Karic had no obvious tie to Weldon's district outside Philadelphia, and Weldon should have known the embassy was shunning contacts with him, the official said.

What the embassy apparently did not know is that the Karic family that year signed a contract with Weldon's daughter, Karen, and a business partner that called for monthly payments of $20,000 for "management, government and public relations," according to a copy of the March 2003 contract. In all, the family paid Karen Weldon's firm $133,858 that year for efforts she undertook to set up a foundation for it.

Curt Weldon's visit and that deal are under investigation by the FBI, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the probe. His efforts to assist clients of his daughter's consulting firm in their dealings with the federal government are the focus of that probe, according to sources familiar with it . ...

Besides looking at Weldon's Karic connection, the FBI is examining the lawmaker's contacts with a Russian-managed oil and gas company, Itera International Energy Corp., the sources said. The company's offices in Jacksonville, Fla., were searched on Monday.

Itera spokesman Steve Koegler declined to answer questions yesterday, but released a statement saying that the government had expressed interest Monday in "any records or information Itera might have with respect to Itera's business relationship with Solutions Worldwide." The name of the firm that Karen Weldon operates with one of her father's close political supporters, Charles Sexton, is Solutions North America Inc.

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