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.”
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.
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
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.