Remember that ongoing FBI investigation of PMA, the lobbying group with close ties to Democratic power-broker Rep. John Murtha?
Well, up until now, House Democrats — led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who’s a close ally of Murtha, the powerful Defense Appropriations subcommittee chair — have been successful on fending off GOP calls for a congressional probe of the matter. But that may be changing…
Politico reports that Rep. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican anti-pork crusader, has offered the sixth version of a resolution to open an investigation into PMA, which comes up for a vote this week. And Flake has picked up support from eight Democrats, to add to the 17 he got in February. That’s leaving House leaders worried.
Flake’s hoped-for probe would focus on the “the relationship between earmark requests already made by members and the source and timing of past campaign contributions.”
The FBI investigation appears to be covering similar ground: whether PMA founder and former Murtha aide Paul Magliocchetti, made “straw man” donations on behalf of his employees or other individuals to funnel illegal campaign contributions to friendly lawmakers, likely including Murtha. There are allegations that, in return, the lawmakers steered earmarks to PMA clients.
Democrats won control of Congress in 2006 in part by running against the “culture of corruption” — typified by GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff — that was created under Republican rule.
Separately, the New York Times suggests the FBI probe could also be moving in a different direction:
It describes Magliocchetti as “pulling bottles from the private wine locker labeled “Mags” to entertain lawmakers at the clubby Capital Grille steakhouse, sending gift baskets or wine to lawmakers and their aides, or leasing each of his lobbyists a Lexus.”
This isn’t just color. The Times reports that lawmakers and their aides are worried that the federal probe may be expanding from the issue of donations to also look at whether Magliocchetti broke federal ethics rules with these acts of “generosity.”
Some former PMA lobbyists told the Times that Magliocchetti routinely looked for loopholes that would allow him to get around ethics restrictions on providing gifts to lawmakers.
Magliocchetti recently shut down PMA and moved to Florida. He’s now said to be planning to open a restaurant.