After the death of John Murtha, media interest in the corruption probe of a lobbying shop run by one of his former aides dissipated, but investigatory interest continued. Yesterday, the Department of Justice arrested and charged Paul Magliocchetti with eleven counts of corruption and conspiracy, alleging a scheme to get hundreds of thousands of dollars from political contributions and federal contracting:
Paul Magliocchetti, president of the Arlington, Virginia, lobbying firm PMA Group Inc., was arrested and charged with using intermediaries to skirt federal campaign- contribution limits, the U.S. Justice Department said.
“Magliocchetti orchestrated a scheme to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal conduit and corporate federal campaign contributions in an effort to enrich himself and PMA by increasing the firm’s influence and prestige,” the Justice Department alleged today in a statement.
A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, yesterday returned an 11-count indictment charging the lobbyist with making illegal payments and making false statements to a federal agency. The document was unsealed today. He faces as long as five years in prison if convicted on any of the most serious counts.
Murtha has long since passed the point of danger in these developments, but that’s not true of his colleagues in Congress. PMA was linked to other Democrats, notably Rep. Pete Visclosky of Indiana. The DoJ subpoenaed his records in May 2009 as part of their probe into Magliocchetti, and Visclosky’s ties to PMA may have even surpassed those of Murtha.
The false statements may have to do with strawman donors, a situation reported by the Washington Post in February 2009. The listings may have covered attempts by Magliocchetti to launder donations to key members of Congress through false listings of lobbyists. The New York Times followed up with their own story about PMA’s strawman donors, and made more of a connection to influence-peddling:
Former PMA staff members familiar with the inquiry say prosecutors’ initial questions have focused on the possibility that Mr. Magliocchetti used straw campaign contributors — a Florida sommelier and a golf club executive, for example, appear to have given large sums in coordination with PMA — as a front to funnel illegal donations to friendly lawmakers, a felony that could carry a minimum sentence of five years.
More alarming to lawmakers and aides, however, is that prosecutors may turn their attention to the dinners at the Alpine and Capital Grille or other gifts they might have accepted from Mr. Magliocchetti — potential violations of longstanding Congressional ethics rules that could lead to more serious bribery charges if linked to official acts.
“All the combustibles are here for a very salacious set of allegations that could go far beyond his campaign finance problems,” said Stanley Brand, a veteran Washington criminal defense lawyer known for representing Democrats.
Murtha died before prosecutors could get indictments for Magliocchetti, but Visclosky and his peers are still very much alive. They had better hope that Magliocchetti can keep his mouth shut, but a man facing 11 counts of serious federal crimes has a tendency to loosen his tongue.