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Lawmakers face ethics probe

Fri., Oct. 30, 2009

Washington’s Dicks among seven scrutinized for ties to lobbying firm

WASHINGTON – Nearly half the members of a powerful House subcommittee in control of Pentagon spending are under scrutiny by ethics investigators in Congress who have trained their lens on the relationships between seven members and an influential lobbying firm founded by a former Capitol Hill aide.

The investigations by two separate ethics offices include an examination of subcommittee chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., as well as others who helped steer federal funds to clients of the PMA Group. The lawmakers on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients. A document obtained by the Washington Post shows that the members under scrutiny also include Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., James P. Moran Jr., D-Va., Norm Dicks, D-Wash., Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., and Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.

The document also indicates that the House ethics committee staff recently interviewed the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., about the lawmaker’s allegation that a PMA lobbyist threatened him in 2007 when he resisted steering federal funds to a PMA client. The lobbyist told a Nunes staffer that if the lawmaker didn’t help, the defense contractor would move out of Nunes’ district and take dozens of jobs with him.

The document sheds light on a widening inquiry into the relationships between members and PMA, a lobbying firm founded by Paul Magliocchetti that has been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department. A year ago, the FBI raided PMA’s offices and seized boxes of records dealing with its political donations and the firm’s efforts to win congressionally directed funds, known as “earmarks,” for clients.

The document shows that both the ethics committee and the Office of Congressional Ethics are looking into the matter. The OCE investigates and makes recommendations to the House ethics committee, which has the power to subpoena and sanction members. Internal ethics investigations of members of Congress are normally confidential.

Under the description of the OCE inquiry, the document says investigators are looking at members who may have been “accepting contributions or other items of value from PMA’s PAC in exchange for an official act.” A Hill source cautioned that the ethics committee has not gathered a significant amount of material and has not zeroed in on specific members.

The chairwoman of the House ethics committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., issued a statement explaining how the document had been accidentally released by a low-level staffer through file-sharing software.

“No inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the Committee,” she said in a statement.


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