Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) is seeking permission from the Federal Election Commission to spend campaign money on legal fees that may arise from the FBI investigation of the PMA Group lobbying firm, though his request letter claims no independent knowledge of the investigation.
PMA Group imploded after news broke in February that federal agents had raided its offices last fall, reportedly as part of an investigation of potentially improper campaign contributions.
The firm’s employees and clients have provided millions of dollars worth of campaign donations to top Members of Congress, including several Appropriations Committee members. Many of these members — particularly Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.), Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Visclosky — have provided millions of dollars worth of earmarks for PMA clients.
In a March 21 letter, Visclosky campaign treasurer Michael Malczewski cited media reports as the source of suggestions that Visclosky may be tied to the investigation of PMA. “According to media reports, federal agencies are investigating whether a lobbying firm, the PMA Group, made improper political contributions to Members of Congress, including Congressman Visclosky,— he wrote.
“Although the details of the federal investigation are unknown, media reports insinuate that certain aspects of the investigation appear to relate to Congressman Visclosky’s duties as a candidate for federal office and as a federal officeholder and would not exist irrespective of those duties, “ Malczewski wrote.
The FEC has generally allowed candidates or officeholders to use campaign money for legal defense if the legal fees result from allegations directly tied to their official duties.
Visclosky’s FEC report for the first quarter of 2009 includes no legal expenses, but it does include a notation of the $18,000 in suspect PMA donations that Visclosky returned to the Treasury.