Visclosky wants to dip into fundraising to pay legal fees

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) is seeking to confirm that he can reach into his $900,000 campaign war chest to pay his legal fees arising from an FBI investigation of his campaign fundraising.

In a March letter to the Federal Election Commission released Monday, the treasurer of Visclosky's campaign is seeking an advisory opinion allowing the use of campaign funds to pay expenses relating to the FBI's investigation of contributions from the PMA Group and its clients.

"I ask the commission to confirm that the committee may pay legal fees and expenses incurred by Congressman Visclosky in connection with the federal investigation relating to the PMA Group," said the letter from Michael C. Malczewski.

The letter does not cite independent knowledge of the investigation, but cites numerous media accounts that "insinuate that certain aspects of the investigation appear to relate to Congressman Visclosky's duties as a candidate for federal office and and as a federal officeholder."

The New York Times reported April 4 that federal investigators may be looking into Visclosky’s relationship with PMA, a lobbying firm that shut down this year after it was disclosed that the FBI had raided its Virginia headquarters.

PMA raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Visclosky. Visclosky, chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, helped PMA get millions of dollars in earmarks.

Last week, Visclosky reported that he was sending $18,000 in campaign contributions to the federal treasury after conducting an audit of his fundraising.

At least $16,000 that Visclosky is returning is coming from two men in Florida listed in Federal Election Commission documents as PMA employees and associates. The two men, one a sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Amelia Island and the other a golf marketing director on the same beach resort, were on PMA’s board of directors but had no connection to lobbying or politics, according to several reports.

The Washington Post reported last week that Visclosky saw a steep drop-off in fundraising last quarter as PMA fundraising dried up. But Visclosky still has $909,000 in cash in his campaign accounts.

Pressure has been building on Capitol Hill because of the investigation and efforts by Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Ariz.) to have the ethics committee investigate PMA earmarks. While Democrats have defeated each of the repeated efforts, Visclosky has voted for Flake's proposals.