Lofgren to Give Back All PMA Donations

Posted February 13, 2009 at 6:22pm

In the wake of a federal raid of a Virginia lobbying firm that has doled out millions of dollars in campaign contributions to lawmakers, questions about the relationships between Members and the PMA Group could land before the House ethics committee — where Federal Election Commission records show five of 10 panel members have themselves received donations.

Among the five Committee on Standards of Official Conduct members contacted Friday, including four Democrats and one Republican, only Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said she would return the funds, while others had yet to make a determination or declined comment.

According to FEC records, Lofgren has received the largest sum among the panel members who have recorded donations from the defense-appropriations-focused lobby shop, including either its political action committee or employees.

From 1998 to 2007, the Californian received 10 donations totaling $7,000 from the lobbyist PAC, which notified the FEC last week that it would end operations.

“My campaign has informed me that the PMA Group has made contributions to my re-election committee in past years,” Lofgren said in a statement. “I have directed that all contributions ever received from the PMA Group be returned to them. I do so without making any comment to the veracity of the allegations against PMA Group.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested last week the ethics committee should “take under consideration any allegation that certainly is public and for that matter, any allegation that is privately made that bears substance.” However, the committee had not publicly indicated as of Friday that it will probe the PMA Group or lawmakers.

In the meantime, an aide to Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), who recorded just one donation from the PAC in 2005 for $1,000, said no decision has been made.

“It’s certainly something that he’ll look at if it comes to that. At this time all we have is speculation,” Butterfield spokesman Ken Willis said.

Both Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler (Ky.) and GOP Rep. Charlie Dent (Pa.) also received single contributions from the PAC, receiving $250 in 2005 and $1,000 in 2008, respectively. A Dent spokesman declined to comment, and Chandler’s office did not return a request for comment before press time Friday.

A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said GOP leadership has not addressed the donation.

“At this point it sounds like something that should be [Dent’s] decision,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) is the sole committee member to report a donation from PMA partner Mark Magliocchetti, son of the firm’s founder, Paul Magliocchetti. Welch received $500 in 2008.

“The only thing we know is what we read in the paper. We’re monitoring developments,” Welch Chief of Staff Bob Rogan said in a statement.

In the meantime, even if it were to initiate a probe, the ethics panel typically defers at least some or all of its inquiries into matters that are simultaneously under investigation by the Justice Department.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, established by House lawmakers last spring to review and recommend complaints to the full ethics panel, could also initiate its own inquiry into the matter. The OCE is not, however, empowered to issue sanctions against Members for rules violations.

No Members have been named in connection to the raid on PMA, and there were no indications as of late last week that lawmakers are the target of a new federal probe.