Visclosky steers clear of PMA earmarks

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), who was among the top recipients of campaign contributions from the PMA Group and its former clients, is apparently steering clear of making any earmark requests this year in connection to the now-defunct lobbying firm.

Visclosky, who sits on the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, released on his office’s website his project requests for the 2010 budget. His requests do not include any clients of PMA, according to a review by The Hill.

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The firm’s founder, Paul Magliocchetti, is reportedly under federal investigation for campaign contributions. PMA officially closed its doors last month.

Other high-profile lawmakers with ties to the PMA Group, including Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.), continue to make requests for PMA’s former clients that also have roots in their districts.

All House lawmakers have to disclose their earmark requests on Friday, under new rules.

The FBI raided the PMA Group in November. 

Visclosky returned at least $18,000 in questionable donations from PMA associates. The Indiana lawmaker also has called on Democratic leaders to open an ethics inquiry into the actions of PMA Group.

Visclosky has been scrutinized for his relationship with the PMA Group. His former chief of staff, Richard Kaelin, was a lobbyist at the firm. And Visclosky was instrumental in securing funds five years ago for the Purdue Technology Center, a high-tech business incubator in Merrillville, Ind.

The Indiana lawmaker also took credit for recruiting four of the center’s seven charter firms, 21st Century Systems of Virginia, ProLogic of West Virginia, ACT-I of Texas, and Sierra Nevada of Nevada, that were all represented by PMA. Another company in the tech center is NuVant Technologies. These companies have received numerous earmarks throughout the years.

Visclosky received at least $100,000 in contributions from donors tied to PMA Group between 2006 and 2008, according to Federal Election Commission reports. PMA Group was the top donor to Visclosky’s 2008 reelection campaign.

From his seat on the House Appropriations Committee, Visclosky helped secure millions of dollars in earmarks for clients of PMA Group.

That included a $951,500 earmark for NuVant Systems of Crown Point, Ind., in the omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed in February.

But for the 2010 budget process, Visclosky appears to be steering clear of making any requests on behalf of the technology center and the participating companies. Visclosky is requesting funding for Purdue University Calumet. The Purdue Technology Center in Merrillville is considered a satellite business incubator of the university. However, Visclosky is requesting  $2 million for the Energy Efficiency and Water Institute Research Facility at the university; $1.65 million for the Comprehensive Wind Energy Program; and $5 million for the Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation.

Visclosky’s office did not return a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Murtha, the chairman of the House Appropriations Defense panel who has been a vocal defender of earmarks for his district, is requesting funds in the 2010 budget for several companies that used to be represented by PMA. All of the companies are located in Murtha’s district.

Murtha is requesting funds for a pair of companies that are now clients of Flagship Government Relations — a firm founded by former PMA lobbyists. PMA closed its doors on March 31.  Flagship has signed at least 11 of PMA’s former clients.

Among those clients are Advanced Acoustic Concepts and Argon ST, for which Murtha is requesting funding in the 2010 budget.

Murtha is requesting $5 million for Advanced Acoustic Concepts for submarine navigation decision aids. The veteran lawmakers is asking for $8 million for Argon ST, to upgrade naval torpedo defense capabilities.

Murtha is also requesting money for two other companies, MTS Technologies and Planning Systems, that used to be represented by PMA. The companies for which Murtha is requesting funds have had a longstanding relationship with the lawmaker and came to Murtha’s rescue during the home stretch of a tough reelection race after he called his district “racist” and “redneck.” They donated heavily to Murtha in the last several weeks before Nov. 4.

Moran also is requesting funds for companies that used to be represented by PMA. The companies — General Dynamics, DDL Omni Engineering, Samueli Institute, ITT Corporation, MobilVox, Rockwell Collins, Argon ST and Artis — all have operations in and around Moran’s district.

Kevin Bogardus contributed to this article.