Once upon a time, Mercury Public Affairs lobbyist Vin Weber was a humble congressman from Minnesota's old Sixth and Second Districts, before he retired at the end of 1992 as a casualty of the House Bank check kiting scandal.
Back in the day, his district encompassed southwestern Minnesota, rather than the bustling suburbs and Big Woods relics now served by John Kline.
It's a long way from the American steppes of the lobbyist's birthplace in Slayton to the uprest in Kiev, but Weber has straddled the gap. Reuters' Mark Hosenball reports in For Ukraine rivals, no let up in Washington lobbying:
Three prominent Washington, D.C. lobbying outfits, representing rival political factions in Ukraine, continued lobbying for their Ukrainian clients through the last quarter of 2013, the most recent reports filed recently with Congress show.
Two of the companies, the Washington-based Podesta Group Inc and the Mercury public relations firm, have been registered with Congress for the last two years as lobbyists for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels group whose financial backing is obscure.
Opposition activists and news reports in Ukraine have described the group as tied to Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich's Party of Regions. . . .
Mercury, whose team working on Ukrainian issues is led by former Republican Congressman Vin Weber, reported $70,000 in fourth-quarter 2013 income from the European Centre, bringing its 2013 yearly receipts from the Brussels-based group to a total of $280,000.
But there's little new in this news. Back in July 2012, Aaron Rupar at City Pages' Blotter blogged in Vin Weber, senior Romney adviser, under fire for controversial Ukraine lobbying:
Former Minnesota Congressman Vin Weber has had quite the career as a"revolving-door" D.C. lobbyist. But as one of Mitt Romney senior foreign-policy advisers, he's now under scrutiny for being a registered lobbyist for the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
The ECFMU was founded in January by a senior member of parliament for Ukraine's ruling Party of Regions, which is led by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. A 2011 special report from a D.C.-based human rights group concluded that Yanukovych "has become less democratic and, if current trends are left unchecked, may head down a path toward autocracy and kleptocracy." A followup published just a week ago found that "a year later, most of those key concerns remain, and in some cases the problems have grown considerably worse, especially in the area of selective prosecution of opposition figures and corruption."
Weber's ties to the ECFMU stand in tension with his history as an advocate for greater democracy in Ukraine--in 2010, the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization that makes grants to democratic non-governmental organizations throughout Ukraine, awarded him the endowment's Democracy Service Medal. He's also worked as chairman of the endowment. . .
Weber's current MNGOP interest
Weber isn't just promoting Ukrainian despots these days. Via the Rochester Post Bulletin, the Associated Press reported in In race to take on Franken, 2 different paths:
McFadden has so far vastly outraised Ortman, though she hasn't reported a total for the last three months of 2013. At the end of the year, McFadden —who estimated his personal wealth at as much as $57 million on financial disclosure forms — had $1.7 million in campaign money in the bank. He's attracted support from national GOP figures like Karl Rove and Vin Weber, as well as former Sen. Norm Coleman, whom Franken unseated by the narrowest of margins in 2008.
Minnesota Historical Society bio of Vin Weber
Weber's congressional files were donated to the Minnesota State Historical Society. For those many Minnesotans who don't remember Weber's service, here's the historical biography:
Vin (John Vincent) Weber was born in Slayton, Minnesota on July 24, 1952. After graduating from Slayton High School he attended the University of Minnesota (1970-1974), where he studied political science. In 1974 he worked on Tom Hagedorn's campaign for Congress and, later, became Representative Hagedorn's press secretary. In 1976 he made an unsuccessful run for a seat in the Minnesota State Senate. Weber was co-publisher of his family's newspaper, The Murray County Herald, from 1976 to 1978. He managed Rudy Boschwitz's 1978 campaign for the U.S. Senate, and later served as Senator Boschwitz's senior Minnesota aide (1979-1980).
Weber was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 in what was then Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District. He was returned by the voters five times as the representative from the Second Congressional District, which was created in an early-1980s redistricting and included most of his old Sixth District. Weber's committee assignments included Science and Technology, Small Business, Public Works, Transportation, Budget, and Appropriations.
Weber was associated with a rising group of aggressive young House neo-conservatives (sometimes referred to as the "young turks") that included Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Calling themselves the Conservative Opportunity Society, they were anti-tax, anti-welfare state, and anti-communist and saw themselves as high-tech, futurist, populist, and conservative. They sought to win Republican control of the House of Representatives, and to reshape the post-Reagan Republican Party in their own image.
Weber retired from Congress in 1992 in the wake of the so-called House Bank Scandal. . . .
Hat-tip: John Gilmore via twitter.
Photo: Uprest in Kiev, via Reuters.
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