Lob­by­ist’s kin un­likely cam­paign con­trib­u­tors

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY CHUCK NEUBAUER

A re­tired Florida cou­ple would ap­pear an un­likely source to have given $83,000 in cam­paign do­na­tions over a five-year pe­riod to mem­bers of Congress from all over the coun­try.

Both in their 80s, they lived in a $118,000 Day­tona Beach house they didn’t own; they each voted only twice since 1992; and they seemed to lack the fi­nan­cial means to make the con­tri­bu­tions.

Yet, both were listed as hav­ing given dozens of do­na­tions to law­mak­ers, nearly half of which went to mem­bers of the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee — leg­is­la­tors who were es­pe­cially im­por­tant to their then-son-in­law, su­per­lob­by­ist Paul Maglioc­chetti, who owned the house in which they lived.

Mr. Maglioc­chetti is now the fo­cus of a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether he made il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions by re­im­burs­ing peo­ple, or “straw donors,” who made con­tri­bu­tions in their names to his fa­vored candidates — help­ing the lob­by­ist avoid fed­eral lim­its on his per­sonal do­na­tions.

In ad­di­tion to the el­derly cou­ple, The Wash­ing­ton Times has iden­ti­fied sev­eral other cam­paign con­trib­u­tors re­lated to or as­so­ci­ated with Mr. Maglioc­chetti who also do not ap­pear to have had the fi­nan­cial means to make the do­na­tions listed in their names or who gave to candidates to whom they nor­mally would not be ex­pected to con­trib­ute.

Mr. Maglioc­chetti is a one­time con­gres­sional staffer who worked with Rep. John P. Murtha, Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat, on the pow­er­ful House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions de­fense sub­com­mit­tee in the 1980s. He built his com­pany, the PMA Group, into one of the 10 top-gross­ing lob­by­ing firms in Wash­ing­ton be­fore it im­ploded af­ter fed­eral agents raided it and his home in Novem­ber 2008.

The firm made more than $16.4 mil­lion in lob­by­ing in­come in 2007, ac­cord­ing to Se­nate records, and was the go-to lob­by­ist for con­trac­tors who wanted earmarks — es­pe­cially from the de­fense ap­pro­pri­a­tions sub­com­mit­tee, which Mr. Murtha heads.

Earmarks are tax­payer funds that law­mak­ers specif­i­cally set aside for fa­vored con­trac­tors and projects in an­nual spending bills. For 2008, PMA ob­tained $300 mil­lion in de­fense ap­pro­pri­a­tions earmarks for its clients, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by Con­gres­sional Quar­terly and Tax­pay­ers for Com­mon Sense, a watch­dog group.

A re­view by The Times of fed­eral cam­paign-dis­clo­sure records shows that Mr. Maglioc­chetti re­turned the fa­vor to his friends in Congress by serv­ing as a ma­jor cam­paign donor and fundraiser.

As a group, Mr. Maglioc­chetti, his fam­ily, his em­ploy­ees and his busi­ness as­so­ci­ates were among the largest donors to key mem­bers of the de­fense sub­com­mit- tee — in­clud­ing Mr. Murtha and Demo­cratic Reps. James P. Mo­ran of Vir­ginia and Peter J. Vis­closky of In­di­ana, pour­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars into their cof­fers. All three mem­bers have de­nied any wrong­do­ing.

Mr. Maglioc­chetti gave a to­tal of $434,154 to fed­eral candidates and com­mit­tees since he be­came a lob­by­ist in 1989, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics (CRP), a non­par­ti­san group that mon­i­tors po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing. Since the gov­ern­ment lim­its how much a per­son can give to fed­eral candidates, Mr. Maglioc­chetti of­ten gave the max­i­mum in his name and got oth­ers to do­nate, the records show.

His fam­ily mem­bers — his wives, his two chil­dren and his in-laws — gave a to­tal $1.2 mil­lion to fed­eral candidates and com­mit­tees. In each case, the fam­ily mem­ber’s per­sonal fi­nances were in­ter­twined with or de­pen­dent on his. Lob­by­ists and other PMA em­ploy­ees gave an ad­di­tional $2 mil­lion since 1989.

While it is not il­le­gal for Mr. Maglioc­chetti to so­licit do­na­tions for po­lit­i­cal candidates of his choice, fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors want to know whether he il­le­gally re­im­bursed any of those who made con­tri­bu­tions on his be­half.

That in­ves­ti­ga­tion has spread to Capi­tol Hill, where a fed­eral grand jury has sub­poe­naed cam­paign and of­fice records from Mr. Vis­closky.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors also are try­ing to de­ter­mine whether mem­bers of Congress or their staffs en­gaged in a “pay to play” scheme with Mr. Maglioc­chetti and his firm, in which they ex­changed earmarks for do­na­tions.

Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s at­tor­ney, William E. Lawler III, de­clined to com­ment.

The Times’ re­view of pub­lic records found a pat­tern of dona- tions from un­likely sources that were di­rected to con­gress­men Mr. Maglioc­chetti wanted to sup­port. In some cases, the donors did not ap­pear to have the per­sonal funds nec­es­sary to make such sub­stan­tial do­na­tions. In oth­ers, the donors had rarely voted or given do­na­tions be­fore they started sup­port­ing Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s slate of candidates.

The un­likely donors in­clude Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s first wife’s par­ents, two busi­ness as­so­ci­ates — a golf pro and a wine som­me­lier who lived near his Florida condo — his chil­dren, and his for­mer sis­ter-in-law and her hus­band, a Vir­ginia po­lice of­fi­cer.

Fed­eral elec­tion law says: “No per­son shall make a con­tri­bu­tion in the name of an­other per­son or know­ingly per­mit his name to be used to ef­fect such con­tri­bu­tion.” In 2002, Congress tough­ened the law, mak­ing most vi­o­la­tions a felony in­stead of a mis­de­meanor and in­creas­ing the penal­ties.

Paul Ryan, a lawyer with the Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter, a watch­dog group, said some of the find­ings about donors un­cov­ered by The Times “raise red flags and de­serve a closer look” to see if there were vi­o­la­tions of fed­eral law.

The in-laws

Ed­win and Le­wanna Kreger are the par­ents of Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s first wife, Nancy. They lived in a two bed­room house in Day­tona Beach the Maglioc­chet­tis pur­chased in 1984 for $66,000, ac­cord­ing to court records. In 2001, the Maglioc­chet­tis trans­ferred the ti­tle to LaFamiglia LLC, a com­pany they and their two adult chil­dren, Mark and Jen­nifer, owned. The as­ses­sor now val­ues the prop­erty at $118,000.

The Kregers made $83,000 in fed­eral do­na­tions from Novem- ber 2000 to Septem­ber 2005, in­clud­ing $33,000 af­ter their daugh­ter filed for di­vorce from Mr. Maglioc­chetti in early 2004, seek­ing to end their 34-year mar­riage, and $30,000 to Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s clos­est friends on the de­fense sub­com­mit­tee — $12,000 to Mr. Murtha, $8,000 to Mr. Mo­ran and $10,000 to Mr. Vis­closky.

De­spite their hefty do­na­tions, the cou­ple ap­peared to have few as­sets and rarely voted.

Mr. Kreger died in April 2006 at the age of 87. His will was filed a few days later, and the judge de­ter­mined he had no as­sets that needed to be probated. His wife died in Jan­uary 2009, also at 87. Her es­tate did not go through pro­bate.

Florida records show they were not ac­tive vot­ers. Since they reg­is­tered to vote in Florida in 1992, they each voted twice — Mr. Kreger in the 2000 and 2002 gen­eral elec­tions and Mrs. Kreger in the 2002 and 2008 gen­eral elec­tions.

Mrs. Maglioc­chetti de­clined to com­ment on her par­ents’ do­na­tions.

“I re­ally can’t com­ment on that,” she said in a brief tele­phone in­ter­view.

Busi­ness as­so­ci­ates

Two Florida busi­ness as­so­ci­ates of Mr. Maglioc­chetti each gave $80,000 to mem­bers of Congress in just over three years. John Pugliese, 36, and Jon Walker,41, made vir­tu­ally par­al­lel do­na­tions beginning on June 13, 2005, and end­ing on Oct. 16, 2008, shortly be­fore the raid on Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s of­fice and home.

The two men and Mr. Maglioc­chetti lived on Amelia Is­land in north­east­ern Florida. The three hoped to open a restau­rant there with the lob­by­ist’s sec­ond wife, Re­becca Kingery.

Nei­ther man made po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions be­fore he started giv­ing to Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s candidates in 2005, fed­eral cam­paign records show. In ad­di­tion, both are reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans, yet each gave more than $66,000, or 82 per­cent of their do­na­tions, to Democrats — those sup­ported by Mr. Maglioc­chetti and PMA.

De­spite their Repub­li­can reg­is­tra­tions, the two men each do­nated less than $14,000 to Repub­li­cans.

The source of Mr. Pugliese’s and Mr. Walker’s cam­paign cash is un­clear. Mr. Walker works as the mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at the Amelia Is­land Golf Club and Mr. Pugliese was listed as a wine som­me­lier at the Ritz-Carl­ton on the is­land. Both lived in sin­gle­fam­ily homes they each pur­chased for about $138,000 a few years ear­lier.

In ad­di­tion, both Mr. Pugliese and Mr. Walker have a his­tory of bor­row­ing against their homes for ex­tra cash, even dur­ing the times they were do­nat­ing to Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s candidates. ac­cord­ing to Nas­sau County, Fla., land records.

Mr. Maglioc­chetti put the two on the PMA board even though they were not lob­by­ists and were based in Florida. They were first listed in an an­nual re­port he sub­mit­ted in Vir­ginia in De­cem­ber 2006. His first wife, Nancy, also not a lob­by­ist, was a board mem­ber in 2003 and was paid $42,000 a year, ac­cord­ing to her fil­ings in di­vorce court.

Such direc­tors’ fees would ap­pear to be ex­ces­sive for a small non-pub­licly traded com­pany, rais­ing ques­tions on whether the di­rec­tor pay­ments were to be used to make cam­paign do­na­tions in vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral cam­paign law. Other non-lob­by­ist board mem­bers have in­cluded his daugh­ter, Jen­nifer Maglioc­chetti, and Re­becca Kingery,

who be­came his sec­ond wife. Both were ma­jor donors.

Mr. Walker de­clined to com­ment about his cam­paign do­na­tions and PMA. Nu­mer­ous calls to Mr. Pugliese’s home went unan­swered. His wife said she did not know how to reach him.

The planned restau­rant ap­par­ently never got off the ground. The state of Florida dis­solved the restau­rant com­pany, Firenze Part­ners LLC, in Septem­ber for not sub­mit­ting its an­nual re­port.

The chil­dren

Jen­nifer Maglioc­chetti, 32, an as­sis­tant ticket di­rec­tor with a Florida mi­nor league base­ball team, has given $66,200 to fed­eral candidates since 2002, records show. She was listed as a PMA di­rec­tor from 1998 to 2006 and her per­sonal fi­nances are closely tied to her fa­ther through real es­tate in­vest­ments.

Records show she bought a home in Wes­ley Chapel, Fla., for $390,000 with her fa­ther in 2007 at the same time she bought a sec­ond home in Tampa. They have a $312,000 mort­gage on the Wes­ley Chapel home. Mr. Maglioc­chetti also was on the $167,196 mort­gage on a third prop­erty she owned in Tampa from May 2004 to Jan­uary 2006.

Jen­nifer, her brother Mark and Mr. Maglioc­chetti also owned a condo in St. Au­gus­tine, Fla., which they bought in De- cem­ber 2001 for $669,500 and sold in Novem­ber 2003 for $850,000. She also was part of the fam­ily com­pany, LaFamiglia, with her fa­ther, brother and mother, which owned a Jack­sonville Beach condo in ad­di­tion to the Kregers’ house, records show.

Miss Maglioc­chetti did not re­spond to phone mes­sages and e-mail re­quests seek­ing com­ment.

Mark Maglioc­chetti, 34, a lob­by­ist for PMA, and his wife, Les­lie, gave $475,794 to fed­eral owned on Amelia Is­land in Novem­ber 2008 for $490,000 af­ter hav­ing bor­rowed more than $140,000 against the eq­uity.

Mark Maglioc­chetti hung up af­ter telling The Times he did not want to talk about his cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions or the lob­by­ing busi­ness. “I would rather not talk to you,” he said.

Nancy’s sis­ter

Nancy Maglioc­chetti’s sis­ter, San­dra Welch, and her hus­band, Joseph, gave $229,000 to fed­eral candidates since 1998, records chet­tis’ di­vorce was fi­nal­ized in Septem­ber 2006 and Mrs. Welch left PMA.

Mrs. Welch also de­clined to dis­cuss her cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions and PMA.

“I have no com­ment. Thank you,” she said.

The wives

Nancy Maglioc­chetti, the first wife, was listed as giv­ing $183,896 to fed­eral candidates and com­mit­tees, in­clud­ing $16,000 in the pe­riod shortly af­ter she filed for di­vorce in Jan-

Lob­by­ing clearly paid off for Mr. Maglioc­chetti, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records. He took a $1 mil­lion PMA salary, lived in a $2 mil­lion Florida home, and bought sev­eral other Florida con­dos. He also had a $975,000 condo in Arlington and a home in Fair­fax County in Vir­ginia.

candidates and com­mit­tees. Mark Maglioc­chetti’s bi­og­ra­phy says he worked for a mem­ber of the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee when he got out of col­lege. He was named to the PMA board in 1998 and be­came a lob­by­ist for the firm in 2002.

Mark and Les­lie Maglioc­chetti’s fi­nances also are heav­ily tied with Mr. Maglioc­chetti, records show. Since Septem­ber 2003, the cou­ple has lived in the Fair­fax Sta­tion, Va., house that Paul and Nancy Maglioc­chetti owned, only re­cently ac­quir­ing the ti­tle. They sold a house they show. Mrs. Welch, a for­mer teacher, was listed as a PMA lob­by­ist from 1998 to 2006, and her hus­band was a Fair­fax County Po­lice of­fi­cer from 1983 un­til Septem­ber 2006.

The cou­ple cur­rently live near Nancy Maglioc­chetti in Port Or­ange, Fla., in a house for which they paid $197,470 in 2002. Records show they gave $112,000 to Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s candidates af­ter Nancy Maglioc­chetti filed for di­vorce in Jan­uary 2004.

Their con­tri­bu­tions stopped around the time the Maglioc- uary 2004. Her con­tri­bu­tions stopped in May 2004.

In 2003, records show she was paid $42,000 as a PMA di­rec­tor and made $36,000 in do­na­tions to fed­eral candidates. She was dropped as a board mem­ber in 2004.

Mrs. Maglioc­chetti de­clined to com­ment on her cam­paign do­na­tions. Cam­paign ex­perts said spouses are al­lowed to use joint funds to make their per­sonal do­na­tions.

Re­becca Kingery DeRosa, who re­cently be­came Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s sec­ond wife, has do­nated $189,155 to fed­eral candidates since 2002. More than half of the do­na­tions were made af­ter PMA be­gan list­ing her ad­dress on cor­po­rate records as Mr. Maglioc­chetti’s Arlington con­do­minium in 2005. Some of the do­na­tions are in the name of Re­becca Kingery and oth­ers in the name of Re­becca or Becky DeRosa, records show.

She was listed as a di­rec­tor of PMA beginning in 2002, but she was not listed as a lob­by­ist. She was some­times de­scribed as PMA’s con­troller on cam­paign records.

Pay­day

Lob­by­ing clearly paid off for Mr. Maglioc­chetti, ac­cord­ing to pub­lic records. He took a $1 mil­lion PMA salary, lived in a $2 mil­lion Florida home, and bought sev­eral other Florida con­dos. He also had a $975,000 condo in Arlington and a home in Fair­fax County in Vir­ginia.

In their di­vorce, Nancy Maglioc­chetti said the con­tents of their wine cel­lar was worth $350,000, al­though Mr. Maglioc­chetti put the value at $73,968. The di­vorce set­tle­ment spells out that Mr. Maglioc­chetti would have “sole own­er­ship of all wine” in their Vir­ginia home “free and clear of any claim by the wife.”

De­spite all his cam­paign do­na­tions, Mr. Maglioc­chetti voted only once in the last eight years — the Novem­ber 2008 gen­eral elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to records in Nas­sau County, where he has been reg­is­tered to vote since late 2000.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic Reps. James P. Mo­ran of Vir­ginia (left) and John Murtha of Penn­syl­va­nia re­ceived hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars from su­per­lob­by­ist Paul Maglinoc­chetti and those con­nected to him.

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