House Ethics Panel to Probe PMA
By Paul Kane
The House ethics committee announced today that is conducting a preliminary inquiry into the lobbying firm PMA Group's ability to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for clients while steering millions of dollars in donations to key Democrats.
In a statement, the committee announced that its leaders had "previously authorized a review of certain specified allegations" against the now shuttered lobbying group, whose offices were raided by the FBI last fall.
The announcement was forced by an unusual House vote last week in which the committee was compelled to declare whether such a review had begun, following a months-long effort by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) to pass a resolution ordering an ethics committee review.
Flake is the House's leading opponent of earmarks, the narrowly written spending items that often are included in the appropriations bills at the request of a single lawmaker.
The panel -- formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct -- did not indicate when it began its initial inquiry. "The committee is continuing to review these matters," the statement said.
This is at least the third ongoing investigation connected to PMA, which has close ties to the leaders of the defense appropriations subcommittee: Reps John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and James Moran (D-Va.).
The FBI and a federal grand jury are examining possible criminal actions by the lobbying firm, including the possible use of straw donations to lawmakers' campaign committee. In addition, the Pentagon's internal investigators are reviewing several of the defense contractors who have won multi-million-dollar earmarks while having PMA represent their interests on Capitol Hill. The Pentagon recently suspended a Pennsylvania contractor with close Murtha ties for receiving Defense Department contracts, citing alleged misappropriation of the federal dollars.
In the 2008 election cycle, PMA and its clients donated nearly $800,000 to Murtha's political committees.
In just one single bill overseen by Murtha, the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations measure, PMA clients received almost $300 million in earmarks.
Murtha has denied any wrongdoing.
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