Defense contractors aid congressman’s charity

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Some of the nation’s top defense contractors have helped sponsor an annual congressional charity tennis tournament in the nation’s capital that is a pet project of Rep. Norm Dicks, senior Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

The Washington state lawmaker is an avid tennis player and helped create the tournament, in which corporate sponsors and invited members of Congress can play tennis with professional tennis legends while raising money for charity.

Mr. Dicks, who at one time described himself as the third best tennis player in Congress, helped push for a 7,500-seat tennis stadium in the late 1980s in Rock Creek Park on National Park Service land for one of the two beneficiaries of the tournament, the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF).

Northrop Grumman Corp., the country’s second-largest defense contractor, spent $25,000 as one of two top sponsors of the 2010 tournament in September, which it said was to honor Mr. Dicks, according to House lobbying records. General Dynamics Corp., the nation’s No. 5 defense contractor, was the other top sponsor, but a company spokesman declined to specify how much money it gave.

Both firms have given previously to the annual event, with General Dynamics’ donations dating back to 2006, according to the spokesman.

Dicks spokesman George Behan said the congressman “adheres to all the ethics rules” and added that Mr. Dicks does not solicit contributions for charities.

At the time of the 2010 tournament, Mr. Dicks was chairman of the powerful House Appropriations defense subcommittee, which oversees billions of dollars in funding for the Defense Department, including the Army, Navy and Air Force, and the CIA. After Republicans took control of the House in January, he became the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee and its parent, the House Appropriations Committee.

Other top defense firms that have given to the tournament through the years include Lockheed Martin Corp., the No. 1 defense contractor, and Boeing Co., No. 3. Other donors include the Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), No. 7, as well as the PMA Group, a now defunct lobbying firm whose owner, former superlobbyist Paul Magliocchetti, was sentenced in January to 27 months in prison on his guilty plea of making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.

Magliocchetti had specialized in getting his clients Defense Department earmarks, including ones from Mr. Dicks and other subcommittee members. Mr. Dicks, a subcommittee member since 1979, became the subcommittee’s top Democrat early last year after the death of Rep. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, its longtime chairman.

The PMA Group

The Washington Times reported last month that the Congressional Charity Tennis Classic (CCTC), a nonprofit group that ran the annual tournament through 2008, received $49,250 from 2005 through 2008 from the PMA Group, according to a list of charitable donations Magliocchetti submitted to the court in an effort to get a reduced sentence.

Mr. Dicks obtained five earmarks in fiscal 2008 and four in fiscal 2009 for PMA’s clients worth $20.9 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.

Mr. Dicks also has used his official position to help the WTEF get the National Park Service to expedite approvals for the group’s 7,500-seat tennis stadium and tennis center in Rock Creek Park, according to news accounts. He has long sat on and eventually chaired the Appropriations Committee’s interior subcommittee, which controls the Park Service’s budget.

In 1991, he helped set aside $400,000 in the 1992 federal budget for the privately owned stadium to help with handicapped-accessibility changes.

“It is not a coincidence that defense contractors are giving to a charity favored by Norm Dicks,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit government watchdog. “They need Norm Dicks. They want to please him.

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