Murtha's not the only one with lobbyist trouble

Together, 104 members of the House secured about $300 million for the clients of a lobbying firm now under FBI investigation -- most got campaign cash in the process.

By Ben Travers

Published February 19, 2009 11:55PM (EST)

Life for veteran Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.) got a whole lot worse recently, but at least now he's got some company in the doldrums.

Congressional Quarterly reports that 104 members of the House (54 Democrats and 50 Republicans) combined with a few senators to secure a total of roughly $300 million worth of earmarks for the clients of lobbying firm PMA, all of it in a single defense appropriations bill in 2008. That PMA connection is coming back to bite them, as the company --  founded by Paul Magliochetti, a former top aide to Murtha -- is currently the subject of an FBI investigation. The Feds are looking into potentially illegal campaign contributions to Murtha and fellow Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.).

Of the 104 lawmakers, 91 received campaign donations, amounting to $1,815,138 overall since 2001, from PMA employees, associates, and the firm's political action committee.

As the scope of PMA's influence on Capitol Hill becomes clearer, some of the representatives caught up in the scandal have been scrambling to cleanse their coffers of any potentially tainted money. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who chairs the House Ethics Committee, says she's returning $7,000 she received over the past decade, Visclosky is giving back $16,000 and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will be donating $4,000 to charity. Pressure is mounting on others to do the same. The communications director for Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) told NPR, "if the authorities find any donation to be improper, we will immediately give that contribution to charity," and Moran's office reportedly says he's monitoring developments but won't be returning donations "until there's clear evidence something improper occurred."

Of the two parties, it's Democrats who find themselves in the most peril. Murtha, who won $38.1 million for PMA clients in 2008, is directly in the crosshairs, and other members of the House Democratic leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, got money linked to PMA. 14 House Democrats count the company as their single biggest campaign contributor.

On the other side of the aisle, the top three House Republican leaders are sitting pretty. Still, for the most part, the GOP is still keeping its powder dry on this one. One possible reason? Like its Democratic counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee took in a fair amount of PMA money; Magliochetti himself donated $15,000 to the NRCC.

Ben Travers

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