Ethics clears seven lawmakers in probe of PMA Group

The House ethics committee has cleared seven appropriators of any wrongdoing following an investigation looking into whether the lawmakers or their staffs exchanged earmarks for campaign contributions with the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA Group.

Reps. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Bill Young (R-Fla.), Jim MoranJim MoranDems face close polls in must-win Virginia Billionaire Trump donor hires lobbyists to help vets Lawmakers: Chaffetz has a point on housing stipend MORE (D-Va.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and John Murtha (D-Pa.), who died on Feb. 8, were all cleared.

The report concluded that the lawmakers did not violate any rules or ethical guidelines in dealing with the PMA Group, founded by former Appropriations staffer Paul Magliocchetti. PMA was particularly successful in getting earmarks for its clients and was known as one of the top defense-lobbying shops in Washington.

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The PMA Group shut down last year after the FBI raided its offices amid allegations of improper campaign donations. PMA and its long list of clients made millions in campaign contributions to lawmakers.

The House ethics report said that investigators found no evidence that any lawmaker was banking on campaign donations when making decisions about earmarks that benefited PMA clients.

“The Standards Committee further found no evidence that members or their official staff were directly or indirectly engaged in seeking contributions in return for earmarks,” the ethics report said. “Rather, the evidence showed that earmarks were evaluated based upon criteria independent of campaign contributions, such as the number of jobs created in the member’s district or the value to the taxpayer or the U.S. military, and without members or their official staff linking, or being aware that companies may have intended to link, contributions with earmarks.” 

The ethics committee’s nearly yearlong investigation concluded on Friday after it reviewed thousands of pages of documents.

Initially, the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) had recommended last year that the ethics committee close its probe without further action on five of the seven members under review. The OCE recommended that Tiahrt and Visclosky stay under review because they did not agree to sit down for interviews with OCE investigators.

Now the ethics committee has cleared both alongside the other five senior defense appropriators.