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The blotter

Roll Call reports that Karen Weldon's firm, Solutions North America, "received a $500,000 public relations contract to represent Itera in September 2002."  Itera is the Jacksonville, FL-based "U.S. arm of a Russian company run by Igor Makarov...  The contract was inked just days before the elder Weldon rounded up 30 Members to attend a dinner at the Library of Congress in honor of Makarov."  Weldon is blaming the probe on "Democrats and the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington."  He "offered no proof to substantiate those claims, although he said CREW had written to Justice earlier this year seeking a probe."

The investigation focuses on Weldon's support of Itera "while that company paid fees to Solutions North America...  The congressman, for example, intervened on Itera's behalf when U.S. officials canceled a federal grant to the company.  He also encouraged U.S. companies to do business with Itera at a time when its reputation had been sullied by accusations of Russian corruption.  Weldon said in a prepared statement that he had done nothing wrong and would cooperate in the investigation '100 percent.'" 

"An internal investigation of a senior aide to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and spousal connections to Congressional earmarks found that no illegal or unethical activity occurred," Roll Call reports.  "However, the report found that Senate ethics rules do not adequately address the large number of spouses, children and other immediate family members who also work as lobbyists, prompting Specter to institute a series of changes to his internal rules of conduct."

USA Today undertook an extensive study and finds that a bunch of relatives of members of Congress and Hill staffers have been able to "cash in when lawmakers spend taxpayer dollars...  The connections are so pervasive that, in 2005 alone, appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills." 

In announcing that he'll amend his ethics report to more thoroughly account for that land sale, Reid "blamed the AP story as the 'latest attempt' by Republicans to affect the election...  Reid also announced he failed to disclose two other land transactions on his prior ethics reports and would account for those on his amended reports." 

Also, "Reid has been using campaign donations instead of his personal money to pay Christmas bonuses for the support staff at the Ritz-Carlton, where he lives in an upscale condominium.  Federal election law bars candidates from converting political donations for personal use," the AP says. 

House Government Reform ranking member Henry Waxman has sent RNC chair Ken Mehlman a letter asking him if he ever accepted U2 concert tickets from Jack Abramoff while working at the White House, which could have been illegal. 

Want to keep score?
Members who have resigned under an ethical cloud: Cunningham (R), DeLay (R), Foley (R)
Members being threatened with expulsion by their own colleagues for being under an ethical cloud: Jefferson (D), Ney (R)
Members who have given up committee seats under ethical clouds: Mollohan (D), Jefferson (D)