MARCH 25, 2009
Two Washington State Democrats are embroiled in an FBI investigation for taking hefty donations from a defense lobbying firm that exchanged political contributions for earmarks with more than 100 federal lawmakers.
The Virginia-based lobbying firm (PMA Group) was raided by the FBI earlier this year and remains under federal investigation for its shady practices and profitable connections in the U.S. Congress. Founded by a former aide to Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, PMA specializes in getting clients hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks from the veteran legislator who chairs the powerful Defense Appropriations Committee.
In return, Murtha has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the companies’ top executives and employees. In 2008 alone, Murtha helped PMA Group clients—many of them his political contributors—get nearly $300 million in earmarks. As a result, PMA Group raked in close to $14 million in fees from the firms.
One hundred four other federal lawmakers also secured hefty earmarks for the mega defense lobbying firm, which will shut down this month amid a growing federal probe. The same lawmakers (54 Democrats and 50 Republicans) who got PMA clients big bucks accepted nearly $3 million in campaign contributions from PMA employees in the last few years.
Among them are Washington State Representative Norm Dicks and Senator Patty Murray, the feds’ latest target. Dicks pushed for nine earmarks worth $20 million for PMA clients in the last few years. In return, he got $84,000 in contributions from PMA and authorities say some of the money came from made-up sources to skirt campaign finance laws.
Murray, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, requested a pair of earmarks worth nearly $5 million for PMA clients last year. She got $26,000 in PMA donations and recently gave away $3,500 of her “questionable” contributions to charity.
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