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Democrats’ Earmark Rules Bite Democrats

Congressional Democrats are learning the tough way that transparency in the legislative process has its pitfalls.

CQ is reporting today that 104 House members — nearly a quarter of the lower chamber — secured earmarks in a 2008 defense spending bill for clients of a single lobbying firm with strong ties to powerhouse appropriator Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).

All told, the House lawmakers (“plus a handful of senators”) funneled nearly $300 million in federal contracts to companies represented by The PMA Group, CQ found.

Murtha, who used to boast that his middle initial stands for “power,” carved out $38.1 million for PMA clients in the fiscal 2008 defense spending law, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Indiana Rep. Peter J. Visclosky , who serves on Murtha’s subcommittee and additionally is chairman of the subcommittee that allocates money for the Pentagon’s nuclear programs, earmarked $23.8 million for PMA clients in the fiscal 2008 defense spending bill.

His former chief of staff, Richard Kaelin, lobbies for PMA, as does Melissa Koloszar, a former top aide to defense appropriator James P. Moran , D-Va.

Moran sponsored $10.8 million for PMA clients, and Rep. Norm Dicks , D-Wash., another member of the subcommittee, sponsored $12.1 million.

And, this being Washington, that type of earmarking doesn’t come without reciprocity. Indeed, CQ calculated that, since 2001, those 104 House members have taken in “a cumulative $1,815,138 in campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee and employees of the firm.” Of that sum, CQ found, Visclosky took in $219,000, Murtha represents $143,600, Moran pulled in $125,250 and Dicks tallied $91,600.

But wait, it gets better. Because The PMA Group’s founder is Paul Magliocchetti, “a former House Appropriations Committee aide who has a long-running relationship with Murtha, D-Pa., the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee,” CQ writes.

There’s more. The FBI raided PMA earlier this month on suspicion that the group has donated illegally to the campaigns of Murtha and other lawmakers. As CQ pointedly notes:

No matter what the outcome of the federal investigation, PMA’s earmark success illustrates how a well-connected lobbying firm operates on Capitol Hill. And earmark accountability rules imposed by the Democrats in 2007 make it possible to see how extensively PMA worked the Hill for its clients.

Damn you, transparency!

Update: CQ has published a handy chart identifying the House members and showing how much money they received in campaign contributions from PMA, and how much money they secured in earmarks for PMA’s clients. Is your representative on the list?

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