Thursday, August 24, 2006

Investigation: Rep. Jerry Weller Pressured Belize on Prosser's Behalf

On August 19, we reported on the financial misfortunes of Republican sugar daddy Jeffrey Prosser, dubbed a "world-class phone-sex operator" by the Columbia Journalism Review in 1998. Prosser and his companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month. His personal debts are estimated at $200 million.

Of the many Republicans who receive campaign donations from Prosser and his wife Dawn, at least one is known to have acted on his behalf. Jerry Weller, a Republican from Illinois who received $4,200 from the Prossers for this campaign season, wrote a letter for Prosser to the prime minister of Belize and visited the Caribbean nation on Prosser's behalf in 2005.

According to a Prosser company (International Communication Company, ICC) website:

In a letter to Prime Minister Musa, Weller, vice chair of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House Committee on International Relations, wrote that "aside from the clearly illegal and costly actions the government has taken against this company, there is important precedent that is set by this case.

According to The Hill:

Weller, who is vice chairman of the International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, personally delivered his letter to the prime minister of Belize.

The letters refer to a legal dispute between Prosser and the government of Belize. Prosser negotiated the purchase of the Belizean telecommunications company (BTL) for $57 million in 2004. The acquisition was apparently financed by the sale of preferred stock in another Prosser company, Vitelco - the Virgin Islands telephone company, without shareholder consent.

Vitelco loaned Prosser's wholly-owned company, ICC, money to make the first payment of $28 million to Belize, but the Virgin Islands public service commission blocked further loans from Vitelco to ICC, and Prosser was unable to make further payments. At that point, the Belize government tried to seize Prosser's shares in the phone company in February 2005, prompting the outraged letter from Jerry Weller.

Weller's letter was reportedly sent on April 1, 2005. He received a $2,100 donation from Prosser on June 30 that same year, and Prosser's wife donated an additional $2,100 in September.

On January 24 this year, two Belize TV stations reported that Prosser had defaulted on a loan from the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT), losing all of his shares in BTL, which had been pledged as security for the loan.

Prosser is also engaged in a long-standing dispute with the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative, based in Virginia. For this campaign season he and his wife have donated $8,400 to Senator George Allen's reelection campaign. Allen is the single largest individual recipient of Prosser campaign donations.

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