Lobby firm owner charged with making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal contributions

The owner of a now-closed lobbying firm that represented defense contractors was arrested Thursday on charges of making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.

The charges against Paul Magliocchetti, brought in federal court in Alexandria, Va., included making false statements to the Federal Election Commission.

Magliocchetti's PMA Group Inc. in Washington's Virginia suburbs was shuttered last year after the FBI raided its offices. The Justice Department and House investigative committees conducted separate investigations of the PMA donations, but no action has been taken against lawmakers.

Magliocchetti made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Thursday and was released under a $2 million bond and several court-imposed conditions. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 13, but defense attorneys said they may request a later date.

The federal indictment unsealed Thursday said Magliocchetti orchestrated the scheme to enrich himself and his firm by increasing PMA's influence, power and prestige — among clients and elected officials.

The federal campaign organizations that received these funds were unaware of Magliocchetti's alleged scheme, the indictment said.

Many of PMA's clients received targeted appropriations known as earmarks. The pay-to-play culture fostered by PMA led to House reforms earlier this year that blocked lawmakers from providing earmarks to for-profit companies.

The Federal Election Campaign Act limits the amounts individuals can contribute to campaigns and political campaign committees. It prohibits corporations from making contributions, either directly or through officers of the corporation.

To evade the limits on individual contributions and the outright ban on corporate donations, the indictment alleges, Magliocchetti caused straw donors to make contributions to scores of federal campaign committees.

The money actually came from Magliocchetti or PMA, rather than the named donor. The people masquerading as donors either received the money in advance or were reimbursed by Magliocchetti, the indictment said.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an investigative panel of non-lawmakers created by Congress, turned over evidence to the Justice Department on PMA-related contributions earlier this year.

The Justice Department has investigated members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee who received a flood of campaign money over the years from the lobbying firm and its defense contractor clients. The subcommittee had been chaired by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who died in February.

Murtha and Magliocchetti had ties that went back to the 1980s, when Magliocchetti worked on the defense subcommittee staff.

The Office of Congressional Ethics' PMA investigation had concluded there was reason to believe Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., solicited contributions in exchange for official acts. That report went to the House ethics committee, which concluded lawmakers who received PMA-related money did not violate congressional standards of conduct.

The 11-count indictment charged Magliocchetti with four counts of making illegal campaign contributions in the name of another; four counts of making illegal campaign contributions from a corporation; and three counts of causing federal campaigns to unwittingly make false statements in their public reports.