Former lobbyist gets 27 months for campaign finance violations

January 7, 2011

A former high-powered Washington lobbyist was sentenced Friday to 27 months in prison for carrying out what prosecutors called one of the largest schemes in U.S. history to violate federal campaign finance laws.

Paul J. Magliocchetti, 65, founder and owner of the now-closed PMA Group, admitted he illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions over several years. The defense industry lobbyist asked family members, friends and employees to make the contributions, then reimbursed them.

Federal prosecutors in Virginia said Magliocchetti was driven by greed. In court papers, they said the scheme “strikes at the core of our country’s democracy.”

“The victim in this crime is the public’s confidence in the electoral process,” Kevin O. Driscoll, an attorney with the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, said during Friday’s sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Magliocchetti, a once-influential Capital Hill figure who now suffers from poor health and clinical depression, apologized to his former employees, family and friends. He told the court that he believes a friend’s firing and later suicide would not have happened but for their association. And he stressed charitable work he has done over the years for military families and abused women.

“I’ve had the time to think about my choices and their consequences, and I am continually challenged by my obsession to find ways to make things right,” Magliocchetti said. “I believe there are ways I can still try to make up for my actions.”

According to court papers, the scheme began in 2003 and continued through 2008. Magliocchetti admitted a role in directing about $386,000 in illegal contributions to specific candidates or political action committees. Prosecutors said in court that they think the total amount of illegal contributions exceeds $1 million, though Magliocchetti’s lawyers dispute that total.

The indictment did not accuse any lawmakers of a crime, and it reinforced the idea that those who received donations from Magliocchetti and his associates were unaware of any wrongdoing.

Magliocchetti’s lawyers had sought home detention for their client, saying he has several health problems and has been diagnosed with a mild cognitive impairment that affects his memory and attention. He suffers from anxiety and depression, they said, and has expressed suicidal thoughts.

“If he were sentenced to a period of incarceration, he would come out forever changed and forever damaged,” defense attorney William E. Lawler III said.

His lawyers also pointed out that many violations of federal campaign laws are resolved with civil fines.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III also imposed a $75,000 fine.

Magliocchetti “concocted a massive scheme to secretly funnel money to political campaigns — all so that he could gain wealth and prestige,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement. “As today’s sentence makes clear, he must now pay a price.”

glodm@washpost.com

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