Mica to Return His PMA Contributions

Posted February 19, 2009 at 3:15pm

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) plans to dump $2,000 in campaign cash from sources affiliated with the PMA Group, becoming the first Republican to return donations from the heavily Democratic lobbying shop at the center of a federal probe.

“If there is any question and we learn of any problems with any donors, the donation will be returned or donated to charity immediately. That’s my quote and our policy,” Mica said in a statement.

A Mica aide said the Congressman will determine next week how to dispose of the contributions.

Mica was the first recipient of contributions from Jon Walker and John Pugliese, two Florida men with no apparent connection to politics or lobbying who joined PMA’s board in 2006.

On June 13, 2005, each cut a check to Mica for $1,000. Over the next three years, they handed out more than $160,000 to federal candidates — usually on the same days, in the same amounts, to the same people. They are often listed in campaign finance records as associates or consultants for the firm, though neither is a registered lobbyist.

For $20,000 worth of his contributions, Walker is also listed as a “partner” at EVAS Worldwide, a PMA client and New Jersey-based manufacturer of emergency aviation equipment. An official with the company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he had never heard of Walker and had “no idea” who he was.

In fact, Walker is the marketing director for the Golf Club of Amelia Island, a beach resort town off the northeastern coast of Florida. And Pugliese is a sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton hotel there.

The two have filed papers to open a restaurant with PMA founder Paul Magliocchetti and his wife, according to the Hill.

The contributions from the Florida men have raised suspicions that the firm was using them to funnel bogus contributions to lawmakers.

Already, three Democrats benefiting from PMA cash have pledged to divest themselves.

Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) has pledged to return $18,000, of which $16,000 came from the two Florida men. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has said he will give to charity at least $4,000 in suspect contributions.

And Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the House ethics committee, is dumping $7,000 in contributions from the lobby shop’s political action committee.

The firm, raided by federal agents in November, is in the process of closing down. It has closed its PAC and plans to shut its doors on March 31.