Ex-lobbyist seeks light sentence, cites charity

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Attorneys for one-time superlobbyist Paul Magliocchetti cite his $700,000 in charitable donations as one of the reasons he should not be sentenced to prison on Friday after he pleaded guilty to making hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.

“From just 2005 to 2008, Mr. Magliocchetti donated over $700,000 to a myriad of worthwhile organizations, including the Girl Scouts of America, the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Association, the Capital Area Foodbank and the Women's Help Center, to name a few,” the lawyers said in recently filed court papers.

But the donations also include hundreds of thousands of dollars to the pet charities of members of Congress, some of whom were crucial to Magliocchetti’s once-booming lobbying business best known for securing defense earmarks for clients.

Shedding light on the little-scrutinized practice of lobbyists courting members of Congress through legal charitable donations, the papers show Magliocchetti gave more than $200,000 to the favorite charities of the congressional earmarkers and other members of Congress. Magliocchetti’s donations were detailed in a ledger filed with the court under the name of his now-defunct lobbying company, the PMA Group.

Ledger entries show Magliocchetti gave a total of $52,530 in four years to the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra was a favored charity of Rep. John P. Murtha, a Democrat who lived in Johnstown, Pa., and chaired the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. Murtha obtained 16 earmarks for Magliocchetti’s clients in fiscal 2008 and six in fiscal 2009 worth a total of $54.3 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Murtha’s wife, Joyce, has been described as a major booster of the symphony, an important cultural institution in Johnstown. The congressman tried to revive the one-time dying steel town with federal earmarks and with help from defense contractors and lobbyists he aided. Several defense contractors who benefited from Murtha’s help also became symphony sponsors, according to published accounts.

Murtha, who died in February, also supported the symphony, using $14,400 in campaign funds for tickets and advertising during the same period.

Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group that monitors earmarks, said some of the $700,000 in charitable contributions listed in the Magliocchetti court papers “were really altruistic.”

“But some of them were investments in his business and were to curry favor with powerful lawmakers and help him get earmarks,” he said.

Another beneficiary

Magliocchetti also gave to nonprofit groups close to Rep. Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat, who helped him get defense earmarks. Mr. Dicks took over as chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee after Murtha died in February. He is now the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

An avid tennis player, Mr. Dicks was one of three directors of the Congressional Charity Tennis Classic, a nonprofit that hosts an annual tennis tournament.

Magliocchetti gave the group $49,250 through PMA over the four-year period. In addition, Magliocchetti paid $4,600 in 2008 for tickets to a fundraiser for Defenders of Wildlife, which was honoring Mr. Dicks.

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

George Behan, a spokesman for the congressman, said Mr. Dicks does not solicit contributions for charities.

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