Tags: murtha | lobbyist | probe

Criminal Inquiry Into Murtha Lobbyist Heats Up

Monday, 30 Mar 2009 02:28 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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The PMA Group, a lobbying firm that was raided in November as part of a federal criminal probe into embattled Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., has closed up shop after reports that federal prosecutors recently raided the office and home of its top operative Paul Magliocchetti, the New York Times reports.

Magliocchetti, who is under investigation for making campaign donations in the names of other people, reportedly directed tens of millions of dollars in contributions to lawmakers while steering hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked contracts back to his clients at PMA.

Murtha earmarked millions of dollars for the Electro-Optics Center at Penn State University, which then rerouted the money to clients of PMA Group, a military-oriented lobbying firm that has close ties with Murtha, Politico reports.

Former PMA staff members familiar with the inquiry tell The Times that prosecutors are focusing on the possibility that Magliocchetti used straw campaign contributors to give large sums in coordination with PMA, whose offices were raided by the FBI in November.

The front, which allegedly funneled illegal donations to friendly lawmakers, carries a felony charge that could result in a minimum sentence of five years.

Prosecutors also are looking into whether violations of longstanding Congressional ethics rules occurred, which could lead to more serious bribery charges if linked to official acts by Murtha.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Murtha has collected $2.37 million in campaign contributions from PMA lobbyists, the Associated Press reports.

“All the combustibles are here for a very salacious set of allegations that could go far beyond his campaign finance problems,” Stanley Brand, a Washington criminal defense lawyer, tells The Times.

Murtha, who is head of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, was involved nearly three decades ago in the Abscam corruption probe, a federal investigation that convicted several lawmakers of taking bribes in return for doing business with the government.

A spokesman for Murtha says the lawmaker had done nothing wrong and is not involved in the investigation. The FBI is continuing its investigation into whether Murtha earmarked special-interest spending provisions in return for campaign contributions.

“We have not been contacted by any federal agency,” Murtha spokesman Matt Mazonkey tells Newsmax, “and no one is suggesting that Congressman Murtha has anything to do with this investigation.”

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