Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Questions raised: Visclosky to return $18,000 in campaign funds

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The campaign committee of U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, is returning a total of $18,000 in contributions made over the last two election cycles by three men officially listed in Federal Election Commission (FEC) records as “associates” of a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm, The PMA Group, after national media reports earlier this week questioned the three men’s actual relationship to PMA.

Visclosky campaign committee spokesman David St. Hill emphasized, however, that nothing to this point suggests that the contributions were either illegal or inappropriate. “The Congressman just doesn’t feel comfortable keeping that money, so he turned it over to the U.S. Treasury,” St. Hill told the Chesterton Tribune on Thursday.

Since 1989 PMA has specialized in representing tech-based businesses and obtaining for its clients lucrative federal contracts or “earmarks,” many of them secured by Visclosky. PMA associates have also donated well over $150,000 to Visclosky’s campaign committee since 2001, while associates of PMA clients have donated tens of thousands of dollars more. Last week it was reported that PMA is apparently under federal investigation—after its Arlington, Va., offices were raided by the FBI in November—and at the time Visclosky told the Tribune that to his knowledge there were no problems with any of the contributions made to his campaign committee either by PMA associates or PMA clients.

But according to reports posted on Tuesday by The Hill, three contributors to Visclosky’s campaign committee—listed in FEC records as PMA associates —appear to have had no true affiliation with PMA at all. Those three men are John Pugliese and Jon Walker, both of Fernandina, Fla., and Marvin Hoffman, of Marina Del Ray, Calif. Pugliese and Walker each donated a total of $8,000 between 2006 and 2008, while Hoffman made a single donation of $2,000 in 2006.

The Hill reported specifically that Pugliese and Walker reside in the Florida resort community of Amelia Island, that one is a sommelier at a hotel and the other a golf marketing director, and that corporate records filed with the Florida Department of State list them as managers of a business called Firenze Partners, along with PMA founder Paul Magliocchetti.

In the 2003-04 election cycle Paul Magliochette Associates donated $49,000 to Visclosky’s campaign committee.

The Hill reported as well that, though a PMA spokesman identified Pugliese and Walker as members of the PMA Board of Directors, they never formally registered as lobbyists.

Meanwhile, the third man, Marvin Hoffman, similarly listed in FEC records as a PMA associate, told the Washington Post on Wednesday that “he never gave money to Visclosky and has never heard of the PMA Group.”

The Contributions

Pugliese and Walker both made five separate donations to Visclosky’s campaign committee, each donation in exactly the same amount, three of the donations on exactly the same day, totaling $8,000 a piece:

Pugliese donated $2,000 twice on March 30, 2006, as did Walker. Pugliese donated another $2,000 on March 28, 2007, as did Walker. Pulgiese donated $1,700 and then $300 more on Feb. 1, 2008, while Walker donated $1,700 and then $300 more on Feb. 6, 2008.

Hoffman made his single donation of $2,000 on March 30, 2006.

In addition, one other contributor to Visclosky’s campaign committee listed as a PMA associate is explicitly not one: Evan Knisely of Washington D.C., who made three separate donations of $1,000 on April 24, 2003, May 15, 2003, and March 31, 2004. In a communication to the FEC dated Feb. 12, 2008, the committee noted, “We mistakenly reported Mr. Knisely was employed by the PMA Group. The employer information should have stated that he was employed by Van Scoyoc Associates.

According to data maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics, associates of Van Scoyoc Associates have contributed a total of $54,367 to Visclosky’s campaign committee over the last five election cycles: $7,000 in the 1999-2000 cycle, $9,500 in the 2001-02 cycle, $11,846 in the 2003-04 cycle, and $26,021 in the 2007-08 cycle.

Campaign Response

St. Hill told the Tribune that, right now, it’s entirely unclear whether any of the $18,000 in donations being returned were improper. “We still don’t know,” he said. “We don’t know if they were illegal contributions. We don’t know if they were inappropriate contributions. A PMA spokesman said that Pugliese and Walker were on the Board of Directors. I don’t know if that’s true or not.”

“The same with Hoffman,” St. Hill said. “That’s even more difficult to discuss. He was quoted in the press as saying he never gave money to the campaign. Which we don’t understand.”

“We don’t know what the FBI thinks about this,” St. Hill added. “We don’t know if these (contributions) are related to the raid on the office. But we went back over the records, based on the press reports, and decided it was best not to keep the money. The contributions may have been entirely appropriate but questions have been raised.”

“People who run for office have to raise money,” St. Hill said, and in the last election cycle Visclosky’s campaign committee received in excess of 1,300 checks. “Staff goes through those donations, trying to make sure the information provided to the FEC is correct. There’s a certain amount of trust, a certain amount of faith, you have to place in the contributors, that they’re providing the right information.”

In the cases of Pugliese, Walker, and Hoffman, St. Hill said, “no red flag went up. They provided us with the information required by law.”

PMA had the reputation, St. Hill observed, as a “reputable government affairs firm. They, like a lot of government affairs firms in Washington, contributed to political campaigns, both to incumbents’ campaigns and to challengers’.”

Visclosky has “an open door and talks to a lot of people about issues,” St. Hill said. “But he makes his own decisions about everything. He represents the people of Northwest Indiana first.”

Earmarks and Contributions

In Fiscal Year 2008, according to data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, PMA clients obtained a total of 154 earmarks totaling $299,498,000. Of those 154 earmarks, Visclosky requested 16 of them, totaling $23,800,000 or nearly 8 percent of the total. Only U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., secured more federal funding for PMA clients: 16 earmarks totaling $38,105,000.

In the 2007-08 election cycle PMA associates donated a total of $59,200 to Visclosky’s campaign committee; in the 2005-06 cycle, PMA associates donated a total of $55,000.

Visclosky’s campaign committee has also received several contributions from the associates of PMA clients for whom he secured earmarks in Fiscal Year 2008. Associates of 21st Century Systems—for whom Visclosky secured an earmark of $2 million in Fiscal Year 2008—donated $31,650 to his campaign committee in the 2007-08 cycle and $22,000 in the 2005-06 cycle.

Associates of ProLogic Inc.—for whom Visclosky secured two earmarks totaling $1.4 million in Fiscal Year 2008—donated $20,500 to his campaign committee in the 2007-08 cycle and $37,500 in the 2005-06 cycle.

 

Posted 2/20/2009

 

 

 

 

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