The [Friday] Papers
The two main points:
* "[H]e didn't declare the extent of his holdings on his required congressional disclosures, and he indicated dramatically different purchase prices for the land in American and Nicaraguan records."
* "His investment got a boost from the narrowly passed Central America Free Trade Agreement, which Weller pitched in 2005 as a tool to enable businesses in his hard-pressed district to sell tractors and food to Latin America. CAFTA also includes additional legal protection for American investors, including those who have purchased lots from Weller."
The Tribune sent two reporters to Nicaragua to help produce its extensively researched report.
Weller did not cooperate or comment.
"When asked about the discrepancies [in recorded purchase prices of various parcels], Weller's office first insisted that questions be given to the congressman in writing. After a week passed with no response to the written questions, the Tribune requested to talk to Weller in person. On Thursday afternoon, Weller's spokesman said he would not answer questions and had no comment."
Maybe the Tribune didn't say pretty please.
Of course, for all its reporting goodness, this isn't the first look at Weller and his questionable Latin American dealings. A year ago, the Reader published Frank Smyth's "The Congressman and the Dictator's Daughter." That story outlined the inherent problems of the then-vice chairman of the House western hemisphere subcommittee - "by far the most important committee in Congress writing legislation on Latin America and the war on drugs and overseeing U.S. policy on those issues," Smyth wrote - marrying the daughter of a Guatemalan dictator and the second most powerful person in her father's political party.
Smyth's follow-up, "Is Jerry Weller's Beach an Ethics Breach," broke the story the Tribune reports today, near as I can tell, "that Weller owns several pieces of property in Nicaragua, some of which he's disclosed to Congress as required by its rules - and some of which he apparently hasn't," as Smyth wrote. The Tribune doesn't mention it.
CORRECTION 4:05 P.M.: The Tribune indeed mentioned the Reader, stating at one point that "Last October, the Chicago Reader identified three properties that Weller bought or sold in 2005 without disclosing." My apologies.
In another follow-up, Smyth wrote that "Weller has yet to explain the beachfront property he apparently owns in Nicaragua but has failed to disclose to Congress as required by law."
(You no longer have to pay to access the Reader's archives, by the way, thanks to a decision by the weekly's new owners. A smart decision - this is just one example of the unlocked value held in those (and anyone's) archives.)
The Reader's Michael Miner then reviewed the irresponsible lack of oldstream media follow-up to Smyth's work - Weller was only in a re-election campaign at the time - and came up with this gem of deflection by Team Weller.
"When the [Morris] Daily Herald called, Weller let campaign manager Steve Shearer do the talking, and Shearer went after the messenger. 'He does not own three [undisclosed] parcels in Nicaragua,' Shearer told the paper. 'He does not own six parcels in Nicaragua. He has filed his disclosure for everything that he owns. The evidence [Weller's opponent] is using is a Chicago left-wing-newspaper article.' Elaborating on his description of the Reader, Shearer said, 'Half of it is sex ads, so it's not exactly a Grade A newspaper. You have to consider the source in this, and the timing.'"
That may seem reasonable until you realize how familiar and convenient it sounds, too.
As noted in Miner's story last year, "the Tribune's archives indicate that the nearest the paper's reporters came to the subject during the campaign was a September 2 story on a campaign donation Weller accepted from a telecommunications executive vaguely linked to phone-sex lines based in Guyana. Here's the reference in its entirety: 'Efforts to reach Weller for comment were unsuccessful. The congressman has been in Guatemala since his wife gave birth to their first child there a couple of weeks ago.'"
And I wonder if those sex lines advertise in the Reader.
"I am aware that my wife may possess assets in her native Guatemala," Weller stated in a letter claiming an exemption from disclosure rules. "However, I do not know what those assets are, nor have I inquired."
Love means never having to ask how much money your daughter-of-a-dictator wife has.
Love Is . . .
War on Democracy
Product of the Day
In Your Head
Fight back. Boycott all products you see placed. Don't let them into your head.
The Beachwood Tip Line: What love truly is.
Posted on September 7, 2007
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