The Harper's story at the link starts off with its own link to a Radar story on "American's Dumbest Congressmen," which has plenty of cringe-inducing stories about Democrats as well as Republicans.
But since Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon is in the news
for what looks an awful lot like abusing his office, I thought I'd stick with the Harper's story.
When I was at the Los Angeles Times in 2004, I co-wrote the article that led to the current FBI investigation of Weldon. I'd like to claim that the article was an astonishing feat of investigative reporting, but it would be more accurate to describe it as picking low hanging fruit.
Consider the Weldon family's involvement with the Russian firm ITERA International (motto: “We bring warmth to people!”). In May 2002, Weldon led a congressional delegation to Moscow and toured ITERA’s offices; Weldon also recommended the company as a “great source” for U.S. energy firms seeking partners for joint ventures. In early September of that year, ITERA paid for Weldon's lodging in New York so he could do an interview with Russian radio. Within a week, ITERA had made a lobbying deal with Karen Weldon, the congressman's then-twenty-nine-year-old daughter. On September 24, Congressman Weldon co-hosted a dinner in Washington to honor ITERA’s chairman. And six days later, ITERA signed a $500,000-a-year contract with Karen Weldon's firm in exchange for “good public relations so in the future ITERA may sell goods and services to U.S. entities.”
Another one of Karen's clients is Saratov, a Russian aviation firm which sought to sell a drone it described as a “flying saucer.” A Saratov official recalled hearing from Rep. Weldon “quite unexpectedly” in early January 2003. Weldon, said the official, expressed “an acute interest” in the flying saucer. The congressman visited Saratov's plant later that month, accompanied by his daughter, and in short order the firm retained Karen Weldon's services.
Since I brought up the Radar article, though, you should at least take a minute to enjoy the snappy opener:
Despite a notoriously compliant president and Republican majorities in both houses, they've spent over 600 days in session without conducting a shred of productive business, which is not to say they've just sat around. As the war in Iraq raged out of control, they futilely postured over an unconstitutional flag-burning amendment that was clearly destined to go up in flames. They rallied around the brain-dead Terry Schiavo after the Senate majority leader, watching her on television, claimed to detect signs of life. And their hijinks culminated this month with l'affaire Mark Foley, which raised the question of just who a guy needs to blow on the Hill to get the attention of the brain-dead House leadership.
But in a notably dumb year, perhaps the dumbest move came from Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, who sponsored a bill seeking $20 million in taxpayer money for a party to celebrate America's victory in Iraq. Not long ago such flagrant obtuseness might have ensured the senator a place on our annual list of America's Dumbest Congressmen. Alas, given this year's stiff competition, he didn't even make runner-up.