Despite Listing, Donors Don't Work for Firm Being Probed
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Marvin Hoffman is listed in campaign finance records as one of the many lobbyists with the powerful PMA Group donating money to lawmakers. But Hoffman is a soon-to-retire information technology manager in Marina del Rey, Calif., who has never heard of the Arlington lobbying firm or the Indiana congressman to whom he supposedly gave $2,000.
"It's alarming that someone is stealing my identity somewhere," Hoffman, 75, said in an interview. "I've never heard of this company."
Another contributor listed as a PMA lobbyist is, in fact, a sales manager for an inflatable boat manufacturer in New Jersey. John Hendricksen said he did make campaign donations but never worked at PMA and does not know how he ended up listed in records that way.
These errors, along with other unusual donations linked to the firm, come as the Justice Department examines allegations that PMA may have violated campaign finance laws. The offices of PMA, which ranked last year as the 10th-largest Washington lobbying firm by earnings, were raided in November by FBI agents and Defense Department investigators.
Federal investigators are focused on allegations that PMA founder Paul Magliocchetti, a former appropriations staffer close to Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), may have reimbursed some of his staff to cover contributions made in their names to Murtha and other lawmakers, according to two sources familiar with the investigation. PMA has long had a reputation for securing earmarks from congressional appropriators, particularly for defense contractors, and it has donated generously to influential members of Congress. Magliocchetti personally gave $98,000 in campaign donations last year, according to campaign records.
Federal election laws limit the amount of money individuals may contribute to candidates, but lobbying firms often show their clout by collecting and bundling contributions. It is illegal for employers to reimburse donors for their contributions.
The Washington Post examined contributions that were reported as being made by PMA employees and consultants, and found several people who were not registered lobbyists and did not work at the lobbying firm. It is unclear whether the donors misidentified as PMA associates are part of the federal probe.
A PMA spokesman said the firm's management does not know Hoffman or Hendricksen and does not know how the errors were made in reports to the Federal Election Commission.
"It's up to the campaigns to report contributions in their FEC filings," said PMA spokesman Patrick Dorton.
FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said she has not often seen such misidentified donations, but if a complaint were received, the commission would first question the campaign about its record-keeping.
Jan Witold Baran, a campaign finance and ethics expert and Wiley Rein lawyer, said the errors pose serious questions and should be cleared up.
"It's true that candidate campaigns have the responsibility for disclosure, but the information they obtain usually comes from the contributor or the person who solicited from the contributor," Baran said. "The question is: Where did that information come from?"