Curt Weldon in Libya on his own mission - accompanied by ex-anchor Larry Mendte

In 2004, then-Rep. Curt Weldon (left) with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Rep. Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican. On his 2011 trip, Weldon said, "I want to help my government get out of . . . a very difficult situation."
In 2004, then-Rep. Curt Weldon (left) with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Rep. Nick Smith, a Michigan Republican. On his 2011 trip, Weldon said, "I want to help my government get out of . . . a very difficult situation."
Posted: April 07, 2011

Curt Weldon, the once-powerful U.S. representative from Delaware County who lost his seat after an FBI corruption probe, splashed back into the international spotlight Wednesday with a visit to Libya and a plea for Moammar Gadhafi to step aside.

In an op-ed piece published by the New York Times, Weldon said he had traveled to Libya at the invitation of Gadhafi's chief of staff.

"Our purpose," he wrote, "is to meet with Col. Gadhafi today and persuade him to step aside."

Weldon said he had undertaken the trip with the knowledge of the Obama administration and members of Congress from both parties. But he cautioned that he had acted on his own.

"No one's paying me to be here," Weldon told CBS News during an interview in Tripoli. "I'm here because I want to do something positive. And I want to help my government get out of what is a very difficult situation."

The State Department dismissed the significance of Weldon's visit, saying he had been warned of the dangers of traveling to Libya, was not traveling on the administration's behalf, and was not carrying any message to Gadhafi from Washington.

"I don't know if it is helpful or unhelpful," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said of the trip. "He is not representing the U.S. government."

It was an unexpected return to the spotlight for a 10-term Republican congressman who wielded influence as a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. Weldon was also a key member of a congressional delegation that traveled to Libya in 2004 in an attempt to ease relations between that country and the United States.

Two years later, he lost a reelection bid amid an FBI investigation into his dealings with contractors. Weldon was never charged in the probe, but his former chief of staff and a lobbyist and close friend were convicted.

After losing his seat to Joe Sestak, Weldon retreated to private-sector jobs.

Adding to the intrigue of Weldon's trip was the inclusion of another Delaware County native who had endured his own fall from grace.

Larry Mendte, a former CBS3 anchor, accompanied Weldon and has been reporting from Tripoli for WPIX, a New York television station.

Mendte pleaded guilty in 2008 to hacking into the personal e-mails of Alycia Lane, then his coanchor, and was sentenced to six months of house arrest. Lane, now an anchor in Los Angeles, is suing Mendte and CBS3, and the case is scheduled to go to a jury trial May 23.

Weldon's former associates and political leaders in Delaware County said they had lost touch with him long ago, but were not necessarily surprised to see him emerge on the international stage.

"Curt has always charted his own course," said Michael V. Puppio Jr., his former campaign manager.

In an online resumé, Weldon described himself as strategic officer for Defense Solutions International, a weapons contractor in Exton, but one former associate said he believed Weldon had left that firm.

No one from the company could be reached for comment late Wednesday; its website lists other officers but not Weldon.

Weldon also launched his own consulting firm, Jenkins Hill International, which, according to its website, serves "domestic and international research institutions, private corporations, and government agencies on a wide range of issues related to intelligence, foreign policy, and defense."

In February, Weldon was appointed chairman of the board of eCrypt Technologies Inc., an information-security firm based in Colorado, according to a corporate filing.


Contact staff writer John P. Martin

at 215-854-4774 or jmartin@phillynews.com.

This article contains information

from the Associated Press.

 

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