Ethics experts say there is no prohibition on a lobby shop having a direct financial interest in its client firms, but the relationships underscore PMAs ability to bundle tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for favored lawmakers.
The PMA Group was one of Washington, D.C.s top 10 lobbying firms, but it has disintegrated in the wake of an FBI raid last fall. The government is apparently investigating whether some of the campaign donations made by people affiliated with the firm were improper.
But top PMA officials also had financial stakes in several of the companies that PMA was helping to obtain earmarks. Those companies were prolific donors to Members of Congress supported by PMA, with employees of the various firms producing tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a handful of Members, frequently making their donations to the same campaign on the same day.
PMA spokesman Patrick Dorton said there is nothing unusual about PMA executives showing up as part-owners of their clients. Like anyone, PMA employees were free to make individual choices to purchase stock and invest in whatever companies they wanted, Dorton said. These were individual decisions.
Likewise, Dorton said the pattern of donations is easily explained. Contributions from different individuals on the same day likely indicate a fundraiser was held on that day, a pretty common occurrence in Washington and not at all unusual, he said.
One of PMAs clients is an Alexandria, Va., fiber optic company called FiberGate. According to Virginia corporate records, one of three directors of the firm is Louis M. Brown Jr. Brown has also been a director at PMA since 2005. Mark Magliocchetti, son of PMA founder Paul Magliocchetti, was also once employed at FiberGate.
Until 2008, Brown was also listed as a director of Planning Systems Inc., an information technology firm that was a PMA client and received millions of dollars worth of earmarks. PSI is now a subsidiary of QinetiQ North America.
Brown is also repeatedly listed in Federal Election Commission records as an executive with the West Virginia IT company ProLogic Inc., a PMA client headquartered in a building named after Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). Brown does not appear on ProLogics corporate records and is mentioned only once in the press releases archived on the corporate Web site, with no title before his name.
Brown did not respond to messages left at several firms where he is listed as an executive.
Beyond the clients that Brown is connected to, PMA also has deep ties to a network security company called Cryptek Inc.
In bankruptcy filings submitted in a Virginia court in November, Cryptek listed three PMA directors among its equity security holders Paul Magliocchetti, Mark Magliocchetti and John Lynch.
Employees of Cryptek, FiberGate, Planning Systems and ProLogic have tended over the years to generate campaign donations to Members of Congress in bunches, suggesting that the check writing was an organized activity, not random donations.