A new political action committee created by the brother of Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) raised $50,000 this spring almost entirely from staff and clients of powerhouse lobbying shop PMA Group, and within weeks, those same donors reaped millions of dollars in earmarks from Reyes and other Members of Congress closely affiliated with PMA.
On March 1, Jesus Chuy Reyes filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission establishing BEST PAC. Reyes is the brother and campaign manager of Rep. Reyes, the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and creation of the political action committee was the Congressmans decision, his office said Friday.
By the first week of June, the PAC had raised $35,000 from 32 individuals, almost every one of whom was an employee of the PMA Group or an employee of a defense or intelligence technology firm represented by PMA. Most of the donations were made on May 7, four days before the Intelligence panel approved the 2008 intelligence authorization bill, which included earmarks for several donors to the PAC.
Reyes Press Secretary Kira Maas said there is absolutely no connection between the PAC donations and the chairmans legislative activity. PMA spokesman Carmen Jacobs said the firm would not comment for this article.
Eight other political committees also kicked in $16,500 to BEST PAC including Congressman Reyes own campaign committee, which contributed $500. Several of the major PAC donors also were PMA clients. Most of the non-PMA related individuals and firms that donated to BEST PAC are affiliated with the lobbying firm Potomac Advocates, also known as PRASAM, which specializes in defense and intelligence matters.
Many of the donors to BEST PAC also are long-time supporters of Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.). The offices of Murtha, Mollohan and Visclosky did not respond to requests for comment last week.
In July, those three Members and Reyes provided 12 earmarks in the House-passed Defense appropriations bill for donors to BEST PAC, totaling about $30 million.
For example, on April 2 Visclosky requested $2 million for the Samueli Institute to develop an integrated medicine, communications, compassion and chronic care program with Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Susan Samueli, who heads the Samueli Foundation, which appears to be affiliated with the Samueli Institute, donated $1,000 to BEST PAC on May 2. PMA has represented the institute since 2002, reporting $240,000 in lobbying fees in 2006 and $120,000 for the first six months of 2007.
PMA registered to lobby for El Paso, Texas-based Romanyk Consulting in December 2006. Andrew Nicholas Romanyk made several donations totaling $4,000 to Rep. Reyes campaign between Sept. 18, 2006, and March 8, 2007. On March 16, Reyes issued a request letter seeking $800,000 for Romanyk Consulting to develop a program to help secure laboratories working with biological agents, an earmark that ultimately was added to the Defense appropriations bill. On June 1, Romanyk made a $1,000 donation to BEST PAC.
In an interview Friday, Romanyk said he has known the Congressman for years, contributed to his campaigns in the past and never before requested an earmark.
Maas explained the earmarks this way: In considering his personal earmarks, Chairman Reyes simply asks the question [whether] it is good for his district and good for national security.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.