ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A former defense lobbyist who helped clients secure more than $100 million in contracts pleaded guilty Friday to illegally funneling more than $380,000 in campaign contributions to House members controlling the Pentagon's budget.
Paul J. Magliocchetti, 64, of Amelia Island, Fla., faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in December, though prosecutors agreed as part of a plea bargain to seek a term no longer than 6½ years.
Magliocchetti founded and owned the now-defunct PMA lobbying group, which was a major player on Capitol Hill for decades.
In 2007 and 2008 alone, three top Democrats on the Defense Appropriations subcommittee — John Murtha of Pennsylvania, Jim Moran of Virginia, and Peter Visclosky of Indiana — directed $137 million in defense contracts to Magliocchetti's clients, typically through earmarks. Before becoming a lobbyist, Magliocchetti once served as a subcommittee staffer and an aide to Murtha, who died earlier this year.
Magliochetti's plea bargain may actually be good news for those House members who had a close relationship with him. The text of the plea agreement omits the standard language requiring a defendant to cooperate with an ongoing investigation and testify against others.
Also, the statement of facts does not mention any specific congressman, and it says the campaign committees that received illegal contributions from Magliocchetti had no idea that he was using illegal conduits to skirt campaign-finance laws.
And in a news release, the Justice Department stated explicitly that the "campaigns that received these funds were unaware of Magliocchetti's scheme."
Specifically, Magliocchetti admitted as part of the plea bargain that from 2005 through 2008, he used family members, friends and lobbyists to route $386,250 in illegal campaign contributions. Magliocchetti said he used his own money — and later money from his company — to reimburse the people who made contributions on his behalf.
Prosecutor Justin Shur said Magliocchetti kept track of the contributions on a spreadsheet and knowingly violated campaign-finance laws "all in an effort to enhance his power and influence as a lobbyist."
The government said the amount of illegal campaign contributions likely far exceeds $386,000, something Magliocchetti disputes. While he admits he knowingly used family and friends as conduits, he said that PMA lobbyists were highly paid and often made contributions that were outside his knowledge or influence.
"I didn't know what they did with the money," Magliochetti told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III.
In all, Magliocchetti pleaded guilty to two counts of making illegal campaign contributions and a third count of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission. Prosecutors agreed to drop eight other counts as part of the plea bargain.
His son, Mark Magliocchetti, had already entered a guilty plea on related charges and likely would have had to testify against his father had the case gone to trial.
Magliocchetti and his lawyer, William Lawler, declined comment after Friday's hearing.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride said that "Mr. Magliocchetti is answering for his brazen disregard for the law to achieve political influence and enrich himself."
"Campaign finance laws give transparency to political contributions, and protect the public's ability to see who's really funding a campaign," it added.