The FBI conducted six raids this morning in connection with Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) investigation that involves his daughter and a longtime friend.
In all, agents executed four search warrants in Philadelphia and two in Jacksonville, Fla., officials said.
In Center City, agents searched the law office of John Gallagher, a Weldon friend who has done extensive business in Russia and former Soviet Republics.
In Media, Pa., agents searched the offices of public relations firm formed by Weldon’s longtime friend Charles P. Sexton Jr., and the congressman’s daughter, Karen.
The FBI raids in Philadelphia began early this morning with FBI agents leaving Karen Weldon’s three-story brick house on Queen Street carrying armfuls of boxes just before noon.
A government car pulled into the alley to the back door of the house and loaded boxes into it. Three agents standing in an alley – members of the FBI’s public corruption squad – declined to identify themselves.
“I can confirm that we conducted a number of searches regarding an ongoing investigation,” said FBI agent Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman in Philadelphia. “Details regarding those investigation cannot be provided because the accompanying affidavit is sealed.”
In Delaware County, FBI agents had blocked off Kelli Lane leading to Sexton’s Springfield house, and were removing at least one box and a bag of material from his home late this morning. Sexton, a long time ally of Weldon and a power in Delaware County GOP politics for more than three decades, is a business associate of Weldon’s daughter.
The raids came three days after news broke that the FBI is investigating whether the Delaware County congressman used his influence to help his daughter, a registered lobbyist, win consulting contracts.
At an event earlier today at Philadelphia International Airport to discuss airport noise, Weldon said the investigation is politically motivated – blaming a complaint filed by Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“She is the only one I know of who went to the Justice Department and asked for an investigation,” Weldon said. “I know that because I have her letter.”
He added, “I haven’t helped get my daughter anything.”
Weldon, who is involved in a tight race for re-election, has said he has done nothing wrong.
The $1 million contract under investigation was first reported in 2004 by the Los Angeles Times. Sources said the FBI and Justice Department investigation is based on the Times story.
The Inquirer reported in 2004 that Weldon had lobbied federal officials on behalf of one of those firms, Itera, the huge and controversial Russian natural gas company. Weldon also complained to Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser, about Itera’s treatment by the federal U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
Itera paid $500,000 to Karen Weldon and Sexton’s firm. The contract was signed in Sept. 30, 2002, six days after the congressman helped arrange a dinner at the Library of Congress to honor Itera and Igor Makarov, the firm’s chief executive officer.
A group of 17 protestors showed up today outside Weldon’s district office in Upper Darby, “carrying signs and the kind of foam hands usually seen at sporting events to proclaim “Number One.” But these rose-colorded hands said “Caught Red-Handed.”"
“This is the first time time I’ve come out and done something like this,” said Judy Voet of Rose Valley. “This Congress is just so corrupt.”
Most of the protesters were Democrats, but they said they were not involved in the campaign of Weldon’s opponent, Joe Sestak, and they included at least one Republican, Chuck Ries of Havertown.
“I don’t know what to believe anymore, they lie so much,” said Ries, holding a sign linking Weldon to current and former Republican colleagues, Tom Delay, Mark Foley and Bob Ney – all of whom have been embroiled in career-ending scandals.