FBI Raids Homes of Weldon Child, Friend

By MARYCLAIRE DALE
The Associated Press
Monday, October 16, 2006; 7:25 PM

MEDIA, Pa. -- The FBI raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon's daughter and a close friend Monday in an investigation of whether the congressman improperly helped the pair win lobbying and consulting contracts.

Agents searched four locations in the Philadelphia area and two in Jacksonville, Fla., said Debbie Weierman, an FBI spokeswoman in Washington. The congressman's home and his offices were not among the locations searched, she said.

Earlier Monday, Weldon called the investigation politically motivated and the timing suspect. The Republican, who is locked in a tight re-election bid and has clashed with the Bush administration, denied wrongdoing and said he gave his daughter no special help.

"What I find ironic, if there is an investigation, is that no one would tell me until three weeks before the election," Weldon said at an appearance in Media. "This incident was 2 1/2 years ago."

Weierman confirmed that the six raids included Karen Weldon's home in Philadelphia; the Springfield home of Charles Sexton, her business partner and the congressman's close friend; and the office of their company, Solutions North America, in Media.

Federal investigators are looking into whether Weldon used his influence to help the company secure lobbying contracts worth $1 million from foreign clients, two people familiar with the inquiry told The Associated Press.

Weldon, a 10-term Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is being challenged by Democrat Joe Sestak in the Nov. 7 election. Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee mailed fliers to voters in Weldon's district accusing Karen Weldon of getting help from her father on lobbying projects.

Weldon said his daughter received no special consideration because of him.

"I've never helped my daughter get anything. My kids are qualified on their own," Weldon said.

The congressman also raised questions about the need for a Justice Department investigation, noting that the House Ethics Committee looked into his daughter's contracts soon after The Los Angeles Times reported on them in February 2004. He said he has cooperated fully, turning over 150 pages of documents and answering the committee's questions.

The FBI also searched two Jacksonville properties of Itera International Energy Corp., Weierman said _ the company's headquarters and a home southeast of Jacksonville.

Itera, a Russian natural gas firm, was paying Solutions $500,000 a year for public relations help, according to the Times. Around the same time, Weldon gathered 30 colleagues for a dinner in Washington honoring Itera's chairman, the newspaper reported.

The search warrants were executed, in part, because of news reports over the weekend exposing the investigation, according to a senior Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry. Typically, such searches are sped up to prevent any evidence from being destroyed.

Weldon, regarded by some as a foreign policy expert, has clashed at times with the Bush administration. In the last year, he has repeatedly said a secret military unit called "Able Danger" used data mining to link four Sept. 11 hijackers to al-Qaida more than a year before the attacks. A Pentagon report rejected the idea.

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Associated Press writers Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington and Ron Word in Jacksonville, Fla., contributed to this report.


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