Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

FEC records: Visclosky spent 185K on legal fees

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MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky spent about $185,000 on legal bills related to an investigation into his ties to a lobbying firm in the last three months of 2009, according to documents filed last week with the Federal Election Commission.

The campaign records, filed Friday, show Visclosky took advantage of the FEC approval he received last August to pay the bills for current and former aides questioned about his ties to the now-defunct lobbyist PMA Group, a key Visclosky campaign contributor.

He also spent $100,000 in campaign funds on his own legal bills last summer.

The Times of Munster reported Sunday that records show Visclosky’s campaign paid $44,600 in attorney fees on behalf of Visclosky’s former chief of staff, Charles Brimmer, and an aide, Shari Davenport. Brimmer has been subpoenaed in the PMA investigation and he resigned last summer.

Visclosky, a Lake County Democrat, also spent $140,300 on services from Steptoe & Johnson LLP, a firm he hired last May when it became clear his office had become a focal point in the PMA investigation.

Visclosky campaign spokesman David St. John said most of the payments came at the beginning of the filing quarter, in early October.

“There has not been a major legal payment made since then,” St. John said. “That is what it is. We don’t have any concern of the impact on the campaign coffers.”

PMA employees or the company’s clients contributed $1 of every $5 of the political donations to Visclosky’s campaign during 2003-2009. At the same time, Visclosky helped secure more than $23 million for the company’s clients.

Once a top-notch lobbying house that specialized in securing lucrative military contracts for its clients, PMA fell apart amid a Justice Department investigation into allegations that it funneled donations to lawmakers through so-called straw donors.

The U.S. House ethics committee has said it launched an investigation in December into whether Visclosky traded campaign cash for earmarks.

The legal bills from October through the end of December surpassed his donations of about $144,000.

St. John refuted the notion that the latest filing could signal the investigation is hurting Visclosky’s re-election campaign financially.

“We don’t see any red flags,” St. John said.

Visclosky still had more than $804,000 cash on hand at the end of last year.

The incumbent so far has no opponent in the May 4 Democratic primary. Four Republicans are vying to take on Visclosky in November.



Posted 2/1/2010




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