Updated: 8:18 p.m.
A federal judge sentenced ex-lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti to 27 months in a federal prison Friday for orchestrating a scheme to donate nearly $400,000 in illegal campaign contributions, but he lamented that government prosecutors have not pursued other campaign finance cases “with the same vigor.”
Magliocchetti — a former House Appropriations Committee staffer who founded the PMA Group, one of the top lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. — pleaded guilty in September to making $386,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
Magliocchetti, dressed in a dark blazer and slacks, appeared calm during sentencing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He also seemed to be accompanied at the proceeding by a dozen individuals, and afterward he could be heard making dinner arrangements for the group at Morton’s of Crystal City.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis sentenced Magliocchetti to serve his term in a federal prison hospital in North Carolina. He also fined him $75,000.
“I don’t think you need to be deterred further,” Ellis told Magliocchetti as he stood before the judge. “The sentence I impose on you has to stand as a beacon, a warning” to others.
But Ellis, responding to a discussion of similar campaign finance violations, chastised federal prosecutors for seeking only fines rather than incarcerations. “I’m a bit dismayed the government does not pursue all of these cases with the same vigor,” he said.
Federal prosecutors had sought a 57-month sentence and a fine up to $629,000 against Magliocchetti. “This is one of the most extensive and long-running campaign finance schemes ever uncovered,” Justice Department trial attorney Kevin Driscoll said Friday.
But defense attorney Bill Lawler argued that Magliocchetti’s punishment should be limited to home confinement or probation because of his client’s numerous health problems, including diabetes, clinical depression and suicide risk.
Magliocchetti addressed the court prior to Ellis’ ruling. “I know this is not a victimless crime,” he said while apologizing for his actions.
“I’ll never work as a lobbyist again,” he said.
Magliocchetti described at length his previous work with charity organizations for military veterans, nuns, the Girl Scouts, and battered women and children. “It breaks my heart that I can’t do this anymore, and I know this is a result of my actions,” he said about his charitable work.
He also noted the October suicide of Florida resident John Pugliese, who was a Florida neighbor of Magliocchetti's and served as a board member of the PMA Group. Pugliese had no apparent connection to politics or lobbying but became a prodigious donor to candidates favored by PMA. He worked at the Ritz Carlton as a sommelier but was fired from his job after the government's investigation became public, Magliocchetti said. Pugliese was not charged in the case.
Ellis told Magliocchetti, “All the good things you’ve done in your life are not erased.” He also advised him not to feel responsible for Pugliese’s death and to “make up” with his son, Mark Magliocchetti, who pleaded guilty in August to making illegal corporate campaign contributions at his father’s behest.
The Justice Department charged Magliocchetti with using his own funds and PMA corporate money to reimburse PMA staff, family members and two acquaintances for making political contributions at his direction. Magliocchetti and his family made $1.5 million in contributions between 2000 and 2008, according to a CQ MoneyLine study of campaign finance reports.
Although the sentence fell short of what federal prosecutors had sought, U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride praised the case’s outcome in a statement.
“Mr. Magliocchetti carried out one of the largest federal campaign finance frauds in history,” MacBride said. “He learned that no one — despite wealth and influence — is above the law. Today’s sentence should put anyone on notice that if you seek to gain the influence of elected public officials through skirting the campaign finance laws you’ll not merely be exposed publicly but you’ll go to prison.”