Rep. John Murtha celebrated his 35th anniversary as a congressman by getting an early start on his next campaign, staging an invitation-only fundraising luncheon for dozens of lobbyists and defense contractors at the private Army-Navy Country Club in Arlington, Va.
But last month’s event, with tickets starting at $1,400, was missing one longtime friend: Paul Magliocchetti, the founder of a lobbying firm that over the past two decades has been one of Murtha’s biggest sources of campaign donations.
Magliocchetti was absent because of what had happened three months earlier. At 7:30 one evening shortly after Thanksgiving, the FBI raided his lobbying firm, carting off records of the firm’s political action committee and files of some of its lobbyists.
The work of those lobbyists took them often to Murtha’s Capitol Hill office, as well as those of fellow Democrats Peter Visclosky of Indiana, Jim Moran of Virginia and others on the defense appropriations subcommittee that Murtha chairs. The FBI says the investigation is continuing, highlighting the close tie between special-interest spending provisions known as earmarks and the raising of campaign cash.
For Murtha, Visclosky and Moran the practice has paved the way for their congressional careers. In 2007 and 2008, the three directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying Magliocchetti’s PMA Group to get them government business. That kind of clout put the midsized 33-lobbyist firm into the big leagues, ranking it in the top 10 in billings among Washington lobbying shops.
At the same time, the three lawmakers received huge amounts of political donations from PMA lobbyists and their clients. Murtha has collected $2.37 million in campaign contributions from PMA’s lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Visclosky has collected $1.36 million; Moran, $997,348.