By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009
A House Democrat from Indiana has conducted an extensive audit of his political committees, after a lobbying firm that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his campaigns closed down amid a federal investigation.
Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, whose ties to the PMA Group have come under scrutiny since the FBI raided its offices in the fall, amended half a dozen reports recently filed with the Federal Election Commission in an effort to properly identify contributors.
But Visclosky's review has not answered a key question in the PMA investigation: the rationale for thousands of dollars in donations to him and other lawmakers from a golf marketing director and a sommelier at a Florida resort, each of whom was once listed as a PMA official on FEC reports.
Instead of returning those contributions, Visclosky gave $18,000 to the U.S. Treasury last month. The amount matches donations received from the golf executive, the sommelier and a 75-year-old California technology executive who told The Washington Post two months ago that he had never heard of Visclosky. The lawmaker's legislative office and campaign committee did not reply to repeated inquiries for comment. Visclosky aides also did not explain why the $18,000 was given to the Treasury, which has no claim to tainted campaign donations.
Visclosky, one of several Democrats closely affiliated with the now-defunct lobbying firm, has taken the most aggressive approach to the scandal. He hired the firm Perkins Coie to conduct the audit and has limited earmark requests to projects for municipalities or nonprofit groups in his northwest Indiana district. For years he had steered tens of millions to government contractors nationwide, many of whom were PMA clients and campaign contributors.
The implosion of PMA also coincided with a dramatic falloff in dollars raised for Visclosky, a 24-year House veteran and member of the Appropriations Committee. Visclosky raised $11,800 from individual contributors this year, a fraction of the $266,250 he raised in the first quarter of 2007 -- with the bulk of the contributions coming from lobbyists and their earmark-seeking clients.
Visclosky, whose chief of staff left five years ago to join PMA, voted in favor of a Republican-led effort to compel the ethics committee to investigate the firm's ties on Capitol Hill.
In February, The Post and other media outlets reported the questionable nature of large donations from Jon C. Walker, who oversaw marketing for the Amelia Island Golf Club, and John Pugliese, the sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the Florida island. The men, who were labeled "PMA associate" or "PMA consultant" on FEC forms, have donated about $160,000 to lawmakers over the past four years.
Walker and Pugliese have been listed on the PMA Group's board but have never registered as lobbyists. Visclosky now lists "information requested" for the two men under the occupation category.
Another problematic donation came from Marvin Hoffman, listed as a PMA associate who gave $2,000 to Visclosky on March 30, 2006, the same day as Walker and Pugliese.
Contacted by The Post in mid-February, Hoffman said he had never heard of PMA. He said he worked for National Technical Systems, an engineering and testing services company that works with the Defense Department and several major contractors. Hoffman later contacted The Post and said he had gone back through his financial records.
"It turns out I did give to him," Hoffman said. "I just didn't remember it."
Visclosky's reports now list NTS as Hoffman's employer.
Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.