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Visclosky Gives Up Control of Appropriations Bill

Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) is handing off control of the energy and water spending bill as he confronts a federal investigation into his ties to a now-defunct lobbying firm.

Visclosky, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, announced Tuesday he will ask Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), the second-ranking Democrat on his panel, to handle the measure.

“I have represented the people of Northwest Indiana to the best of my ability and I have always abided by the law and adhered to the rules and code of ethics of the House,” Visclosky said in a statement. “However, as a firm believer in the institution of the House of Representatives, I intend to ask Congressman Ed Pastor to temporarily handle the Fiscal Year 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations bill during committee and House consideration. As we work through this process, I intend to work as hard as I always have on behalf of the people of Northwest Indiana.”

Visclosky on Friday announced that his Congressional and campaign offices and some staffers have been subpoenaed as part of a federal grand jury probe of the PMA Group, a defense earmark lobbying firm that collapsed earlier this year after the revelation that its offices had been raided by federal agents.

The Indiana Democrat had close ties to the firm: His former chief of staff worked there, and its employees and clients were a top source of campaign funds for him. Visclosky sponsored millions of dollars worth of targeted projects for PMA clients.

Visclosky’s decision to hand over control of the spending bill is the latest in a series of moves he has made to distance himself from the firm.

He did not request earmarks for any former PMA clients in this year’s defense spending bill, pledged to return $18,000 in contributions from suspected straw man contributors linked to the firm, and has broken party ranks to support a call for the ethics committee to investigate PMA’s ties to senior appropriators.

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