As earmark lobbyist gets out of jail, former colleagues still on the trail


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Paul J. Magliocchetti, the former House Appropriations staffer who went on to be a top lobbyist for earmarks, got out of prison today. Magliocchetti pled guilty to charges that he made illegal campaign donations. He was served a 27-month sentence for admitting to funneling more than $380,000 to House and Senate campaigns through straw donors.

PMA Group, Magliocchetti's firm, boasted a stable of lobbyists who had gone through the revolving door, some 33 in all, including 7 who worked for the congressional appropriations committees or their members. Of those, 28 are still registered to lobby the federal government. Most of them–14 lobbyists–are split between a pair of firms, Cornerstone Government Affairs and Flagship Government Relations. The latter organization represents a number of former PMA Group clients, including Concurrent Technologies, the Johnstown, Pa.-based nonprofit defense contractor that was the beneficiary of $8 million worth of earmarks in just one year. That was 2008 and the largesse came courtesy of the hometown congressman, the late Rep. John Murtha. The powerful chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, Murtha was a recipient of illegal campaign contributions from Magliocchetti. 

How much more Concurrent Technologies or other groups may have gotten by friendly lawmakers waving the magic appropriations wand is hard to know because the public's window into the earmark process is a narrow one: House sponsors of and recipients of earmarks were only disclosed beginning in 2008 after the Honest Leadership in Open Government Act was passed the year before. Senators were never required to disclose individual earmarks they sponsored. In 2010, the incoming Republican House majority declared a moratorium on earmarks and the Democratic-controlled Senate followed suit. 

In its heyday, PMA Group was a major player in influencing who won earmarks. From 1998 until its closure in 2009, the firm reported receiving more than $118 million in lobbying fees; the firm's PAC and employees were also major players on the Washington fundraising circuit. The Center for Responsive Politics found that the firm and its clients contributed to 516 members of Congress.

In its indictment, the government charged that Magliocchetti used his family members, PMA Group lobbyists and others as conduits for donations that either he or his firm gave. Magliocchetti "ensured that he and PMA received credit for these contributions" from congressional campaigns by "hosting fund-raising events in which he or his associates delivered the contributions," the indictment read. Magliocchetti reimbursed the conduits–also known as straw man donors–through PMA Group's treasury, hiding the corporate source of the money. He also cooked the firm's books to disguise the payments.

One barometer of just how big PMA's giving footprint was: Even though the firm has been shuttered since 2009 after FBI agents raided its office, it still remains a top-ten career donor to several current members of Congress, including Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind. Both are members of the House Appropriations Committee who gave out earmarks to PMA Group clients.