Last summer I wrote in the Reader that Jerry Weller, who represents Illinois' 11th Congressional District, had stubbornly remained a member of the International Relations Committee and its western hemisphere subcommittee despite an apparent conflict of interest ("The Congressman and the Dictator's Daughter," August 25). Weller had married Zury Rios Sosa, a third-term legislator in the Guatemalan legislature, in 2004. Up for reelection that fall, he tacitly admitted that being on the committee and subcommittee represented a conflict of interest, telling the Bloomington Pantagraph, the largest paper in his district, that he would "recuse himself from legislation . . . specific to Guatemala." Of course that's hard to do when you're voting on legislation that covers all of Latin America. Worse, it meant he couldn't discuss problems in Guatemala that affect this country, such as drug trafficking.
Now Weller is off both the committee and subcommittee, though it might not be because he saw the light. He also sits on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and that may have been too many seats for a member of the new minority party. According to congressional staffers, when the Republicans lost the majority, some congressmen with a seat on more than one committee had to choose between them. Weller didn't return a call asking for comment.
Weller has yet to explain the beachfront property he apparently owns in Nicaragua but has failed to disclose to Congress as required by law. As I wrote in the Reader ("Is Jerry Weller's Beach an Ethics Breach?" October 27), I found publicly available Nicaraguan documents showing that he'd bought several pieces of property, but his annual financial disclosure forms don't seem to record all of the purchases. And that could be a violation of the Ethics in Government Act and federal law. The House ethics committee has plenty to look into this session, but maybe it'll find time to ask Weller about this.