FBI agents in April reviewed financial disclosure forms for Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on the same day USA Today published an article about lobbyists who are related to aides of the veteran appropriator using access to the office to secure earmarks.
According to Senate records, Specter is the second Senator this session to have his financial forms reviewed by federal investigators. Justice Department lawyers last year pulled filings for Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and a number of his former and current staffers.
The FBI review also came just weeks before federal investigators pulled the files of Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) and House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) — as well as members of Lewis’ staff — as part of their investigation of potential abuses of the earmarking system.
But unlike other recent instances of federal investigators reviewing Members’ financial forms, which is historically very rare, neither Specter, his staff nor those close to them have been implicated in any ethics investigations or have any subpoenas been filed involving Specter or his staff.
Scott Hoeflich, press secretary for Specter, declined to comment.
“Any question as to what the FBI is doing should be directed to the FBI,” he said. “Sen. Specter’s Financial Disclosure Report is a matter of public record and anyone may look at it.”
According to Senate records obtained by Roll Call, FBI Agent Jennifer Bach reviewed Specter’s financial forms April 25, 2006. Although in a phone interview Bach acknowledged she had reviewed Specter’s forms, she refused to comment further on the matter.
While it is still unclear why the FBI accessed Specter’s file — and whether he is a formal “target” of an investigation or is involved tangentially in an investigation — the document review came the same day as USA Today’s story about two relatives of top Specter aides, Eric Wallace and Shannon Meadors Oscar.
Wallace, a lobbyist for Triad Strategies and the son of Specter’s State Director Andy Wallace, had secured a $200,000 earmark for a Philadelphia nonprofit group. Oscar, a lobbyist with Capital Advocates, is married to Michael Oscar, who ran Specter’s Philadelphia office before moving to the office of Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
The USA Today story was the fourth in a series of reports by the paper that questioned the relationship between Specter’s office, his staff and the family members of aides.
In addition to Wallace, the series also probed the relationship between Specter and Michael Herson, founder of the American Defense International lobby shop and husband of Vicki Siegel. Siegel is the coordinator of special projects in Specter’s office, and is his top aide on defense appropriations issues.
Following publication of the first three stories in February, Specter announced that he was changing his internal rules to ban lobbyists related to members of his staff from engaging in official business with anyone connected to him.
A review by Roll Call of lobbying records, travel forms and press releases issued by Specter’s office suggests that Pennsylvania-based companies and organizations in search of funding have long made it a point to retain the lobbying services of Specter’s former aides or relatives of current staffers.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.