Aug. 28, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER
Roll Call

FBI Agent Pulled Files on Specter

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.

For instance, Wallace’s firm Triad Strategies secured $200,000 in funding for Impact Services, a nonprofit that provides housing for veterans. According to the April 25 USA Today article, Specter’s office acknowledged that Wallace successfully had lobbied them for the funding prior to the change in Specter’s internal rules.

Additionally, Triad for the past year has used former Specter aide Anthony Cunningham’s firm, CHARMWORKS, as a subcontractor. According to Senate lobbying records, Triad has paid CHARMWORKS $40,000 since Sept. 20, 2005 for work on a number of appropriations matters, including veterans, health, labor and education, and economic development bills.

Herson, meanwhile, has found success gaining access to federal earmarks for clients, which in turn have paid steadily increasing fees for his services. Herson’s shop, ADI, consistently has ranked in the top 35 most profitable lobbying companies in D.C., according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com, taking in almost $15 million over 2004 and 2005.

Drexel University, which has paid ADI more than $1 million since 2001, has secured numerous earmarks, including a $6.5 million earmark last year for its Applied Communications and Information Networking Program.

The defense contractor Gestalt, meanwhile, has paid Herson’s firm $600,000 since 2002. Then, last November, Specter announced a $5 million earmark for the company’s Distributed Mission Interoperability Toolkit program.

Former aides to Specter also have been popular with companies and organizations that eventually have received earmarks from Specter. For instance, American Continental Group, where Specter’s former Chief of Staff David Urban lobbies, has taken in $420,000 in lobbying fees from the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative since 2002. During that same period, the initiative has secured millions in federal earmarks, including $3 million since 2003 for a series of research and educational programs.

Similarly, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh,which paid the ACG $100,000 from 2002 to 2004, received a $200,000 earmark in 2004 to “expand after-school outreach programs to at-risk children.”

Likewise, Cunningham’s CHARMWORKS has received $40,000 from Franklin Fuel Cells to lobby for “alternative energy” projects involving the Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Energy. The company, based in Chester County near Philadelphia, received a $1 million earmark from Specter last year for copper-ceramic solid oxide fuel cell technology research.

According to a press release from Specter’s office, “this program will design, fabricate, and demonstrate a 2kW copper-ceramic solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) auxiliary power unit prototype to be delivered to the Navy no later than July 2007.”d a $200,000 earmark in 2004 to “expand after-school outreach programs to at-risk children.”

Likewise, Cunningham’s CHARMWORKS has received $40,000 from Franklin Fuel Cells to lobby for “alternative energy” projects involving the Army, Navy, Air Force and Department of Energy. The company, based in Chester County near Philadelphia, received a $1 million earmark from Specter last year for copper-ceramic solid oxide fuel cell technology research.

According to a press release from Specter’s office, “this program will design, fabricate, and demonstrate a 2kW copper-ceramic solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) auxiliary power unit prototype to be delivered to the Navy no later than July 2007.”

comments powered by Disqus

SIGN IN




OR

SUBSCRIBE

Want Roll Call on your doorstep?